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China, EU Working Towards Agreement on Textiles

China and the European Union were still trying to reach an agreement early Monday morning to solve the stockpile of China-made textiles at EU ports.

Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson were still in the midst of their discussions at press time.

Mandelson, who arrived in Beijing on Saturday for a China-EU summit scheduled to start today, and Bo began their talks at about 10 AM yesterday.

Before leaving Brussels for Beijing, Mandelson called on EU member states to work quickly to release stockpiled China-made textiles in the interest of Europe.

The textile impasse between China and the EU has left stores in EU countries short of seasonal clothes to sell.

Some 80 million items of Chinese clothing have been prevented from entering the EU market because quotas stipulated in an earlier bilateral agreement signed in June have been reached.

China and the EU signed the deal to curb the growth of China's textile exports to EU before 2008. Countries with big textile industries such as France and Italy took a hard line in implementing quotas stipulated for the two-and-half-year period.

But Nordic nations and Germany, under pressure of supply shortages, have demanded a swift release of the impounded goods.

"It is important for the world to understand that the EU and China are able to solve the problem in a constructive, positive way," Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said.

He made the remark during a meeting with the press yesterday.

Barroso described the stockpile problem that erupted after the June agreement as "exceptional."

Nobody predicted the problem, which created difficulties for some EU members in implementing the agreement, he said.

But he added that the issue should "once again show the world that we (China and the EU) can manage the issue by the spirit of harmony and understanding."

Barroso said the June agreement created a breathing space (for EU textile industry) by slowing the dramatic and sudden increase in Chinese imports to Europe.

In his previous meetings with Chinese leaders, he said that Europeans should look at China's extraordinary economic growth as a real opportunity.

"But for that, we need to address and solve problems when they appear so they don't undermine the positive evolution," Barroso added.

It is certain that China will raise the issue of its market economy status during the summit, which the EU has yet to fully recognized. In an interview with Xinhua, British Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested China provide information that will allow the European Commission to reach a positive decision.

Blair is to participate in the EU-China summit.

Barroso also called for attention to climate change and social affairs during the summit.

He said the two sides are seeking to raise their partnership on climate change to a higher level. Concrete actions on energy efficiency would be a key aspect of their cooperation.

Barroso said the EU is willing to share with China its experiences in issues such as employment, workers' rights and labor market development.

(China Daily September 5, 2005)

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