09/05/2005, 00.00
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Still no agreement on textiles between Beijing and the European Union

Meetings between delegates of the Chinese government and the Trade Commission of Brussels have failed. The issue is still on the negotiating table today, the opening date of the annual Sino-European meeting.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – No agreement has been reached despite several meetings between European Union (EU) and Chinese government representatives about the issue of textile imports. "There have been constructive talks between the EU and China and the two sides are broadly in the same place about how to deal with the overshoot of certain textile quotas," a spokesman for EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said.

"This will lead to unblocking of the goods held at the borders, but there are some important aspects still to be reached and discussions are continuing at the expert level."

 Announcement of an agreement was expected yesterday before the opening of the annual Sino-European meeting which starts today. The theme of the meeting is political, economic and energy cooperation – other than the arms sale embargo imposed in 1989 – between Beijing and Brussels, but textiles remain the burning issue.

Last night, Mandelson said: "There's no sticking point as such, but the deal won't be done until it's done." His spokesman added: "We thought we were very close to a resolution a number of times during the day."

A joint system of quotas to limit exportation to 10 categories of garments within the Union was accepted on 10 June. But the quotas – oscillating between 8 and 12.5% annual growth – were filled within just two months and "made in China" bras, T-shirts and trousers began piling up in Chinese and European ports. At present more than 80 million garments, worth more than 400 million Euros, have been denied entry to the EU because quotas are already full.

The matter has split member states of the Union: Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland – nations which produce textiles – want to continue the quota system to protect their national industries while Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavian nations want to see the problem swiftly resolved.

In June, Mandelson tried to get the backing from the Union to concede extra quotas of up to 140 million Euros but there has been no clear reply on this from Brussels. Retailers across Europe are warning of job losses, bankruptcy and clothing shortages for winter if the blocked Chinese garments are not allowed to enter the EU, but Mandelson still insists that the June agreement was not a failure. "If it was a failure why would there be others trying to do exactly the same?" he said, referring to the unsuccessful Sino-US textile negotiations which concluded last week.

In the first six months of the year, textile and garment exports from China to Europe rose by 57% to 8.65 billion US dollars. At the moment, quotas have dropped to 39% while European exports to China are at a static 2%.

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