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 user 2005-08-23 at 7:15:00 am Views: 57
  • #12479

    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
    textiles clampdown.

    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
    modern commerce.”

    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.