EU, China seek solution to textile standoff

Beijing, August 29:

European Union (EU) trade envoys flew home today to report on efforts to revise a textile pact with China as Beijing-based EU officials kept talking with Chinese negotiators, an official said. Even with the departure of the three lead negotiators, “talks are still ongoing,” said Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the EU office in Beijing. There was no word on any progress.

Meanwhile, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson planned to present EU governments with proposals today on unblocking the 75 million Chinese-made garments piled up at European ports for exceeding import limits.

China’s textile shipments have surged since the end of global quotas on January 1, prompting the US and Europe to seek limits to protect their manufacturers. The European side was expected to seek changes to a textile accord negotiated in June that could bring forward 2006 or 2007 import allowances to ease the holdup. But Chinese state media has said Beijing might be unwilling to use up next year’s allowance early.

Mandelson told BBC television his proposals could unblock stranded Chinese goods by mid-September. “I hope that member states will cooperate with me,” he said. It wasn’t clear how the proposals would affect the talks in Beijing. The EU could choose to let the stranded shipments through customs without action from China. Also this week, chief US textile negotiator David Spooner is due in Beijing tomorrow to start two days of talks on the textile trade.