Textile dispute : ‘China will not be a scapegoat’

Agence France Presse

Beijing, June 6:

China will never accept being a scapegoat for US domestic problems, state media said today after Washington urged Beijing to understand the pressure it is under over booming exports of Chinese textiles. During talks in Beijing on Saturday, US commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez explained that the US side was under mounting pressure at home to do something about a surge in Chinese textiles that are threatening jobs. But in an editorial the China Daily, often used by the government to get its point across to an international audience, said this could never be a valid excuse for violating international trade agreements. “US secretary of commerce called to understand the political pressure the US government bears over the textile issue. The US point is weak,” it reported, “Domestic politics is no excuse for violating international pact. Letting trading partners and free trade as a whole pay for one’s internal woes is not acceptable. The Chinese can be co-operative but they refuse to be a scapegoat for domestic problems.”

Gutierrez and US trade representative held talks here over the weekend with vice-premier Wu Yi. Gutierrez had earlier had negotiations with his counterpart Bo Xilai but all the discussions ended inconclusively. Since the end of a global quota system, the US has slapped import quotas on seven categories of Chinese textile goods. The EU is also close to imposing limits on two types of textile products. China has said it remains confident a trade war can be avoided but has also blamed the US and EU for failing to adequately prepare for the surge in textile exports that came with the end of the quota system. “When the real impact arrived, they blamed us and quickly moved to breach the trade liberalisation agreement and attempted to shift the pressure to Chinese textile workers,” reported the China Daily, “This is sheer protectionism.”

Greek traders hit

ATHENS: Zhang Qing is laughing all the way to the bank. As he works the till in the clothes store he has run in Athens for the past six years, the Chinese merchant can barely suppress his joy. “The Greeks like my prices and business is good. See! They buy in bulk,” he says as one customer pays 6 euro for three ‘Goodfeel’ cotton shirts produced in China’s Zheng Jing province. “Why pay 25 euro for a blouse when you can buy one for three euro here?” said Kalotina Stefanidis. Further down the street, Tili Zhou also sits behind the till in her basement

‘Chinese clothes market’. While other Greek-owned stores have shut for the weekend, Zhou passes the time while she is waiting for customers by chatting over the internet with her 11-year-old daughter. Qing and Zhou are not alone. In Greece, and particularly Athens, hundreds of Chinese have emerged selling wares from clothes to calculators, lint removers and walking sticks, at a pace that has put Greece in the frontline of Europe’s textile trade war with China.

The country’s 17 per cent increase in imports of cheap Chinese goods was the second biggest

in the EU last year. With Chinese imports exceeding 1.4 billion euro in 2004 — four times more than eight years ago — Greece lags behind only the Netherlands in the invasion. Demand is such that the first of several multi-storey Chinese shopping malls will open in the capital next month. — AFP