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New Proposals to End China-EU Textile Row

The European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said on Sunday that he would on Monday propose to end a trade dispute which has prevented the entry of millions of Chinese textiles into European markets.

"I'm making proposals, the Commission is making proposals to our member states... to begin the proceedings to unblock all the goods currently held at customs," Mandelson said in an interview with BBC News 24. Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

"And if they cooperate, I believe that we will be able to unblock all the goods currently held at customs by the middle of next month," he added.

In the past four days, the EU and China have been negotiating to find a way to unblock some 75 million pieces of clothing being held at European ports.

The problem stems from a new limit on Chinese clothing imports to the bloc, which came into force in June and was designed to protect the EU's own clothing manufacturers.

China has reportedly already exceeded its quota for the year.

But some of Europe's biggest stores have warned that their shelves might go empty if the goods are not released, and it now looks as if EU officials will have to increase China's 2005 quota after only two months.

Mandelson said the same problem would not happen next year and he hoped the held goods would be given "speedy passage".

He said the problem was partly caused by the rapid expansion of Chinese manufacturing which could not have been foreseen.

"Nobody has been made bankrupt. However, there are many retailers - and I'm particularly concerned about small and medium sized retailers - who have faced difficulty and it's not right they have done so," Mandelson said.

With around 50 million sweaters and 17 million pairs of trousers still stuck at European ports, big name stores across the continent are growing anxious that these Chinese-made clothes might not be released in time to prepare for the Christmas shopping season.

T-shirts and bras are the latest items to join the list of products that have reached their EU quota limits.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Chinese and US officials will hold a fourth-round of talks to try to reach a comprehensive deal on Chinese textile exports to the US.

(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2005)

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