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EU agrees on need for quick clothing deal
Updated: 2005-08-31 21:26

EU member states agree that a solution needs to be found quickly to release tens of millions of Chinese-made garments that are prevented from entering the 25-nation bloc, an EU presidency official said on Wednesday.

But differences remain on how to resolve the stand-off between countries that have strong retail sectors and are opposed to the restrictions, and more traditional textile-producing nations, another EU official said.

Ambassadors of the 25 European Union member countries met in Brussels on Wednesday to hear proposals from European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on how to free up Chinese-made clothing including trousers, pullovers and bras.

These goods hit new quota limits just months after they were agreed with Beijing, causing a logjam at EU borders.

"No formal conclusions were drawn but all delegations agreed on the need for a rapid resolution of the problem in a calm and cooperative spirit," the EU presidency spokesman said.

Britain holds the rotating EU presidency.

Mandelson said on Tuesday that unless the goods are unblocked, there was a risk of some clothing shortages and higher prices.

The second EU official said there was no agreement between the two sides on how to proceed, particularly on the issue of whether clothing to be released should be deducted from China's quota for exports to the EU in 2006.

"Clearly there was no agreement among everyone," the official said. "Some were in favour (of Mandelson's proposals). Others wanted a more global, more balanced solution, with a contribution from China."

Exports of Chinese clothes to Europe soared this year after a long-standing quota system expired on January 1.

In an attempt to balance the concerns of textile-producing countries such as France, Italy and Spain, with those of states with big retail interests, such as Germany and Sweden, the EU negotiated a new, temporary quota system with China in June to last until 2008 to slow the growth of the clothing exports.

But the new limits were reached within weeks while importers continued to order garments before the new EU rules were in place, so goods began piling up in ports and warehouses.

Separately, talks in Beijing between China and the United States over China's surging textile exports have failed to bridge deep differences between the two sides, a U.S. industry official said on Wednesday.

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