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Possible US Textile Safeguards Draw Criticism
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A US measure to safeguard its market against Chinese textiles cannot be justified and a government delegation will soon be taking up the issue with US and EU authorities, according to the Chinese Government and industry officials Tuesday.

The US Government decided on Monday to determine whether quotas should be re-imposed on Chinese textile and apparel exports to the United States, a move criticized by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

The US Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, an inter-agency panel that includes officials from the Department of Commerce (DOC) and several other government agencies, voted on Monday to launch investigations into three clothing categories: cotton knit shirts and blouses; cotton trousers; and underwear made of cotton and man-made fibres.

"The major obstacles in the textile trade are that importing countries including the United States engage in over-protectionism and have irrational arrangements in their textile trade," Qin said yesterday. He said to simply blame exporting countries, especially China, for the problems of their textile industry is unreasonable.

The US Government said the move, rather than being requested by its textile manufacturers, was initiated after trade figures were released by the DOC last Friday.

The DOC figures showed textile and apparel imports from China in the first three months of the year totalled 2.86 billion square meters, up 62.5 percent year-on-year.

They also showed shipments of knit shirts from China had increased 1,258 percent in the first three months, with shipments of cotton trousers up 1,521 percent and underwear by 300 percent.

But Cao Xinyu, vice-chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import & Export of Textiles, said the trade figures alone were not just reason for US safeguards.

"The US Government should give the market more time to return to normal after the distorted trade," Cao said.

Textile quotas, removed on January 1 this year according to a WTO agreement, seriously limited textile trade. For example, China is a big exporter of trousers, but it suffered unfair treatment in the days of the quota. The United States set China a quota of 5.5 million square metres, compared to 7.82 million for Bangladesh and 10.18 million for Viet Nam.

"The increase of Chinese textile exports does not cause market disruption, a precondition for the safeguard, as they have mainly replaced textiles from other exporters," Cao said.

The European Commission is also expected to discuss guidelines today on how to apply safeguards on Chinese clothing imports.

(China Daily April 6, 2005)

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