China criticizes new US textile quotas
China on Thursday criticized new U.S. quotas imposed to control surging imports of Chinese textiles and said it might respond by taking action through the World Trade Organization.
China faces pressure from the United States, the European Union and other producers to restrain its textile exports, which have soared since a global quota system ended on January 1.
The Commerce Ministry expressed "firm opposition and strong displeasure" to two sets of U.S. quotas, imposed in the past week following complaints that Chinese imports were hurting American companies.
"The Chinese government reserves the right to take further actions within the framework of the World Trade Organization," said ministry spokesman Chong Quan, quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency. The report didn't say what steps Beijing might take.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry appealed to Washington to settle the dispute through dialogue instead of unilateral action.
China says it has taken its own steps to control the growth of textile imports by imposing a new tax, but U.S. officials say it is too low to have any real impact.
U.S. quotas imposed Wednesday limit growth of Chinese imports to 7.5 percent a year. They apply to men's and boy's cotton and man-made fiber shirts, man-made fiber trousers, man-made fiber knit shirts and blouses, and combed cotton yarn. On Friday, similar restrictions were imposed on imports of Chinese-made cotton trousers, cotton knit shirts and underwear.
U.S. textile imports from China this year are running at a rate 54 percent above the same period of 2004, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
The United States has the power to impose such limits in response to sharp increases of imports of Chinese goods under the agreement that cleared the way for Beijing's WTO membership in 2001.
Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai on Wednesday called the quotas unfair and criticized the United States for blaming China for the fast growth of its Chinese textile imports.
China faces similar complaints from Europe, which launched an investigation last month after reporting that imports of some Chinese textiles have risen by up to 534 percent since Jan. 1.
French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that while the move is "important," it is "not yet sufficient." A glut in Chinese textiles poses "a real problem" for Europe, compromising millions of jobs, he said.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, meeting with Chirac in France at a summit with the Polish head of state, said he fully supports the French position.
EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has insisted there was no question of reintroducing quotas, but French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said Tuesday unnamed "steps" could be taken if a solution isn't found "within a couple of weeks."