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EU to propose to end textile row with China
Updated: 2005-08-29 08:30

LONDON -- The European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said on Sunday that he will on Monday propose to end a trade dispute which has stopped millions of items of Chinese clothing from entering Europe.

"I'm making proposals, the Commission is making proposals to our member states... to begin the proceedings to unblock all the goods currently held at customs," Mandelson said in an interview with the BBC News 24.

"And if they cooperate I believe that we will be able to unblock all the goods currently held at customs by the middle of next month," he added.

In the past four days, the EU and China have been negotiating in Beijing to find a way to unblock some 75 million pieces of clothing being held at ports in EU member states.

The problem stems from a new limit on Chinese clothing imports to the bloc, which came into force in June and was designed to protect the EU's own clothing manufacturers.

Reports said China has already exceeded its quota for this year, so its clothing exports are not being allowed into Europe.

But some of Europe's biggest high street names have warned thattheir shelves may start to empty if the goods are not released, and it now looks as if EU officials will have to increase China's 2005 quota after only two months.

Mandelson said the same problem would not reoccur next year and he hoped the held goods would be given "speedy passage".

He said the problem was partly caused by the rapid expansion ofChinese manufacturing which could not have been foreseen.

"Nobody has been made bankrupt, however, there are many retailers - and I'm particularly concerned about small and medium sized retailers - who have faced difficulty and it's not right they have done so," said the trade commissioner.

With around 50 million sweaters and 17 million pairs of trousers already detained at European ports, big name stores across the continent are increasingly anxious that these Chinese-made clothes should be released in time to prepare for the Christmas rush.

T-shirts and bras are the latest items to join the list of products that have reached their EU quota limits.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Chinese and US officials will hold a fourth-round of talks to try to reach a comprehensive deal on Chinese textile exports to the US.

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