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Suspense Surrounds On-going Sino-US Textile Talks

After the first day of the sixth round of Sino-US textile talks, analysts agree that the outcome of the negotiation remains "unpredictable."

The new round of talks, which started Wednesday only 24 days after the fifth round ended, is highly likely to result in an agreement, said Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Institute of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.

Mei listed three favorable factors: the two sides have reached agreement on the toughest issues of products to be limited and the base number at the last talks, the new round of talks follow the other closely, and President Bush is scheduled to visit China in November.

However, he pointed out, politicization of trade affairs by the United States also casts a shadow on prospects.

The two-day closed-door meeting is being held at the main building of the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing.

David Spooner, special negotiator for textiles at the US Trade Representative's Office, continued to be head of the US side, while the Chinese side was still led by Lu Jianhua, director of foreign trade department under the Ministry of Commerce.

Since global quotas were scrapped on January 1, the United States has set limits on nine categories of textile products imported from China, saying that the surge of textile products imported from China disturbed the US market.

The US movement has cost China's textile sector dearly. The export volume of Chinese textile products to the United States has reduced at least US$2 to 3 billion since January, according to an estimate by Sun Weibin, spokesman of the China National Textile and Apparel Council.

"Chinese textile producers long for a clear prospect of Sino-US textile talks before the coming Chinese Export Commodities Fair," Sun said. "Otherwise, their orders may be affected."

But the result should come after compromise from the US side, he noted.

The bi-annual fair has been the bellwether in China's foreign trade. Export volume during the fairs has accounted for one tenth of the nation's total export volume.

"If the US side insists on its rigorous stand, the negotiation may stalemate," Sun said. "The previous activities of the US side make it hard to judge its stand."

On September 30, the United States declared to further postpone the decision of whether to limit exports of four categories of Chinese textile products to November 11, and China extended its welcome to the act.

However, on October 5, the US Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements declared to consider the application tabled by some US textile industry communities on imposing limits on 13 categories of imported Chinese textile products, including nine already limited categories and four newly added ones.

Some analysts held that the US oscillation was merely a negotiation strategy, and that both sides should take an active attitude in the textile talks and strive to reach an agreement as early as possible.

(Xinhua News Agency October 13, 2005)

Sino-US Trade Talks Start Again to Settle Disputes
China, US Start Sixth Round of Textile Talks
US Caution Urged on Textile Issue
Textile Industry Regrets Fruitless Sino-US Talks
No Deal Reached, But Progress Made at Textile Talks
More Textile Restrictions from US Likely
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