BARRED CHINESE GOODS PILE UP @ EU. PORTS
BARRED CHINESE GOODS PILE UP @ EU. PORTS
2005-08-23 at 7:14:00 am #12636
Barred Chinese Goods Pile Up at European Ports
EU Quotas Criticized As Stockpiles Mount
PARIS (Aug. 05) – Barred
Chinese clothing shipments are piling up at European ports, prompting
warnings of retail stock shortages and higher store prices just weeks
after the EU moved to stem an import surge deemed a threat to jobs.
Amid concern that the European import quotas are doing more economic
harm than good, Brussels is facing growing calls for their relaxation,
even from France – one of the strongest supporters of the original
Unless the Chinese quotas are loosened, retailers are warning,
consumers could end up paying more this autumn for clothes hastily
sourced from elsewhere – as well as enjoying less choice.
The problems in Europe come as Washington is nearing a deal with
Beijing on its own temporary import limits aimed at protecting U.S.
jobs in the sector. China’s textile exports have risen sharply since
permanent quotas were abolished on Jan. 1, 2005 – three years after it
joined the World Trade Organization.
The EU halted Chinese imports of sweaters in July and men’s trousers
earlier this month after imports met the annual quotas agreed with
Beijing in a June 10 deal.
Since then, shipments have been stopped and held at ports of entry,
although EU officials say they have not yet been able to determine the
size of the stockpiles.
Imports of blouses were also stopped Friday, the European Commission
said, with T-shirts, bras and linen cloth expected to follow within
The commission, which drafted the new quotas agreed with the Chinese in June, said it had not anticipated the glut of imports.
“We knew the quotas would fill up one day, but we didn’t expect it to
happen so quickly,” said Rupert Krietemeyer, a spokesman for the EU
Earlier this month, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson won backing from
EU states to increase the 2005 quotas for pullovers as stranded
shipments mounted, and Krietemeyer said possible quota relaxation for
other garments would be discussed at a meeting of trade officials next
“We know the situation is very serious for the importers and we’re trying to help them,” Krietemeyer said.
But importers also bear some responsibility for the chaos, he added.
“The retailers knew about the quotas but … they continued to order
articles from China without any licenses.”
The CNSH French clothing retailers’ association – which represents
retailers including Etam and Kookai – blamed the EU for the disruption.
Retailers had built the long-agreed liberalization of Chinese textile
imports into their sourcing plans, said CNSH Executive President
Jean-Marc Genis. “Companies went to China to buy more goods, then all
the rules changed. The orders had been placed and paid for last year.”
Some retailers say they managed to anticipate the new temporary quotas
and to source elsewhere, but others claim the hitch could leave
damaging holes in planned autumn and winter lines.
“The potential consequences are that there will be shortages on the
shelves,” said Genis. “Retailers will go rapidly to other sources, the
prices will go up and the customer will pay – and he will not
necessarily find the right goods.”
Next week’s debate among EU governments on whether to relax the
restrictions – for example by bringing forward part of the 2006 quotas
to this year – promises to be animated.
In an open letter published Thursday by the Financial Times newspaper,
trade and economics ministers from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and
Finland backed calls for a re-examination of the Chinese quotas, which
they said had been imposed “without proper regard for the realities of
German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement also warned Mandelson that
the restrictions could do “major damage to manufacturing and trade in
Italy, which had campaigned fiercely for the quotas earlier this year,
said more data should be gathered before they were relaxed. Deputy
Trade Minister Adolfo Urso said Thursday that most EU states would back
Italy against “those European governments that have taken it upon
themselves to represent the interests of a few big retailers.”
But France, which also pushed hard for the June quota agreement, called
this week for a more “pragmatic” approach to its enforcement as the
complaints from its own retailers grow louder.
“If we have tens of thousands of pullovers backed up at our frontiers,
it’s not very reasonable to apply it in a completely orthodox way,”
Trade Minister Christine Lagarde told a news conference.
In the United States, where cheap Chinese clothing imports have been a
boon to consumers but battered domestic manufacturers, trade officials
say they are close to a deal on temporary quotas with China after the
latest round of talks closed Wednesday in San Francisco.