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No Major Change in Textile Trade with EU

The EU has assured Chinese textile firms that it will not follow Turkey's lead in imposing quotas on its textile imports.

Claude Veron-Reville, spokesperson for EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, told China Daily that such safeguards would only be used as a last resort and "would have to be fully justified."

Turkey decided in December to impose quotas on 42 categories of Chinese textile imports, just ahead of the lifting of global quotas on January 1.

China's textile industry grew increasingly concerned that the EU may take similar measures in response to calls from Europe's largest textile-industry lobby group, Euratex.

Reports had also indicated that, at a closed-door meeting last month, EU trade officials and politicians discussed whether Turkey's action against China should lead the EU to do likewise.

Veron-Reville said the EU is currently working on guidelines for safeguards. "We want to get them right, not rushed."

She added, "EU strategy for the textile and clothing sector is not a protectionist one, but is forward-looking and focuses on our strengths."

She said the industry there has adapted itself over a 10-year quota removal transition period and specialized in what it does best: high-tech fabrics. By exporting such products, Europe has moved up the value chain.

The WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC), which established the quota elimination process, ended on December 31 and trade in textile and clothing products can no longer be subject to any quantitative restrictions.

Just ahead of this, the European Commission, the EU executive, proposed seven measures to enhance competitiveness of its textiles industry.

These were: boosting research and innovation, ensuring lifelong education and vocational training, structural funding to cover unforeseen crises, strengthening the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, improving access to other markets, rapidly completing the Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone and strengthening cooperation with China.

The last measure includes the recently established EU-China textiles dialogue and monitoring of Chinese imports.

There is no going back on the removal of quotas, Veron-Reville said, and the EU will respect its commitment and the fact that it is the price for China's accession to the WTO.

"But we want to ensure a smooth transition to a quota-free regime, in particular for vulnerable countries whose economies are highly dependent on exports," she said.

She pointed to Bangladesh, whose textiles and cloth represent 85 percent of its exports, as an example.

Eight measures were announced by the Chinese government last month, including imposing an export tax on textiles and cloth, to help ensure the industry was able to adapt to its new environment.

Mandelson had previously said that by accepting dialogue rather than confrontation, the commission has a greater chance of ensuring China does not become a threat to the European industry.

Two Textiles Trade Dialogue meetings were held by China and the EU in May and November last year.

Before January, EU textile imports subject to quotas represented only 20 percent of total EU textile and clothing products. Twelve percent of Chinese textile exports to the EU were affected by the abolished quotas.

China is the EU's leading textile supplier, accounting for 17.5 percent of all textile imports in 2003.

(China Daily February 7, 2005)

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