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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
EU 'will back' China textile deal
Peter Mandelson in Beijing
Mr Mandelson said the deal would boost EU-Chinese relations
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has said he is "confident" that member nations will approve the deal he struck with China to end the textiles dispute.

Monday's deal followed talks to resolve the row that left 75 million Chinese garments stuck in European ports.

The EU imposed clothing quotas in June to stem a big surge in Chinese imports, after a worldwide textile tariff and quota system ended in January.

Under the deal, half the stockpile will count towards import quotas for 2006.

However, it will not come into force unless the EU's 25 member states endorse it - which is not expected until early next week.

Stability needed

Mr Mandelson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the agreement ensured stability in relations between Europe and China and should be accepted in the interests of consumers.

"I am confident because the initial discussions have indicated that member states are giving (it) a warm welcome," he said.

"That may not be universal, but I hope that they will consider on its merits what I have agreed, partly because it's good for Europe and good for China, and that's what I wanted to achieve, but also because there's no alternative to what I'm proposing.

"We need to satisfy the needs, not only of European textile producers, but European retailers as well. Because, at the end of the day, member state governments must put the consumer first."

Our Brussels correspondent says that EU member states are consulting with interest groups, although it appears that France and Italy, previously opposed, will now back the deal.

"The first signals that we have received from member states appear to be positive," said EU commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde.

'Acceptable'

Mr Mandelson signed the agreement in Beijing with Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, following marathon negotiations that began on Sunday and continued through the night into Monday.

We are allowing very generous growth of Chinese imports to Europe and those imports will grow next year
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson

Chinese officials have welcomed it as "fair and acceptable to both sides".

Mr Mandelson denied that the deal was simply deferring the problem until next year, saying people would know "very clearly" what restrictions would be in place in 2006.

"It is not as if we are shutting out Chinese goods and are going to keep a sort of blockade in place over the next two-and-a-half years. The opposite is the case.

"We are allowing very generous growth of Chinese imports to Europe and those imports will grow next year."

Retailers versus manufacturers

Under the old 30-year-old Multi-Fibre Agreement, nations were set annual clothing export limits.

The demise of that arrangement led to a massive increase in Chinese clothing exports to the EU, which reacted by imposing import quotas.

But as soon as the quotas were announced, retailers and wholesalers rushed to order supplies from China - using up the limits almost as soon as they were introduced.

Chinese textile factory
Chinese factories have much lower costs than their European rivals

France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, all of whom have large domestic textile industries, have been most opposed to any change in the quotas.

In contrast, several northern European states, including Germany and Sweden, are backing their retailers' calls for the garments to be let through.

The US is also embroiled in a textile war of words with China, for similar reasons.

Unsuccessful negotiations in August have led to calls for Washington to introduce its own additional quotas, allowed under the terms of China's accession in 2001 to the World Trade Organization.


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