China and EU reach temporary agreement on textiles
Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The European Union and China agreed late last night to curb a surge in imports of Chinese textiles into Europe until the end of 2008, in a bid to defuse an escalating row straining ties between the EU and Beijing.
EU trade chief Peter Mandelson welcomed the accord, struck during talks with Commerce Minister Bo Xilai in Shanghai.
"It's an agreement, therefore that helps everyone's interests," Mr Mandelson said. "It's a win-win agreement. The overall settlement represents a fair deal for China while giving respite and a much-needed breathing space for European industry."
Details of the agreement were not released but an EU diplomat said China had agreed to limit the growth in its exports of 10 textile and clothing products to the EU to between 8 and 12.5 per cent a year. Xinhua reported that in exchange, the EU would then "open her textile market completely to China in 2008".
Mr Bo said the agreement "shows China is a responsible and co-operative trade partner".
"China's right to a free textile trade is fully justified, just as our rights in the service trade and agricultural sector as having been made clear upon China's accession into the World Trade Organization three years ago," he said.
The minister also expressed his appreciation of EU's sincerity in settling the Sino-EU trade dispute through "dialogue and consultation," which he said has constituted a sharp contrast to "certain countries' one-sided action" in handling similar problems. Bo remarks hinted at the US, who has already slapped the 7.5 per cent restriction proposed by China on seven textile products. The US wants instead a revaluation of the yuan.
The accord reached yesterday aims to defuse a growing trade dispute triggered by the end of global textile quotas on January 1, which opened the floodgates to a surge of cheap Chinese goods into Europe. In the first quarter of this year, imports of Chinese T-shirts into the EU rose by 157 per cent over the same period in 2004 to more than USdollars 150 million. Imports of Chinese pullovers and men's trousers jumped by more than 400 per cent.
The agreement will still need the approval of all members of the 25-nation EU, although diplomats said that even France and Italy - which have taken the toughest line on Chinese imports - were likely to back it. Meanwhile, the mainland's textile makers say uncertainty caused by the dispute has caused a rapid fall in orders.
China-EU trade totaled 177.3 billion US dollars in 2004 and China's textile exports to EU were valued at 10.79 billion US dollars.