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EU, China Meet to Revise Textile Trade Agreement

  • Daniel Schearf

European Union and Chinese trade officials have begun talks in Beijing to revise a trade agreement that has blocked tons of clothing from reaching European stores. The talks come just days before the United States and China hold similar discussions on the flow of Chinese textiles.

It has been only two months since European Union and Chinese trade officials agreed in Beijing to limit soaring Chinese textile exports to Europe. Both sides hailed that negotiated solution as a breakthrough in trade relations, and the Chinese suggested it was an example for the United States to follow.

However, the quotas agreed to in June on Chinese sweaters, pants, bras and other textile categories have already been reached. European customs officials have therefore blocked the import of millions of dollars worth of these items, leaving some European retailers short of goods.

Anja Lorcher, a trade policy adviser at the Foreign Trade Association, a Brussels-based retail organization specializing in foreign trade issues, says the June agreement did not take into consideration the buying cycle of European retailers, whose business will now suffer as their goods lay beyond reach.

"They have been paid for. They're lying in stocks in warehouses and they have to be in the shops next week," she said. "Which will not be possible if nothing happens this week."

China would also like to see more of its exports on European shelves. An editorial Thursday in the official China Daily newspaper urged the European Union to honor the principles of fair trade.

The article went on to say that the EU experience is also useful for the United States, where, it said, "protectionism is even more rampant, particularly in the textiles sector."

United States and Chinese trade officials are scheduled to meet next week in Beijing for ongoing textile trade talks. Washington imposed emergency quotas on soaring Chinese clothing exports after global quotas ended at the beginning of this year.