The European Commission has announced that it will not renew limits imposed more than two years ago on textiles and clothing from China after a dramatic surge in low-cost imports from the Asian giant threatened to cause serious damage to the European manufacturing industry.
As expected, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson announced on 9 October that quotas, imposed on ten Chinese textile products in June 2005 and due to expire at the end of the year (EurActiv 13/06/05), would not be prolonged and would instead be replaced instead by a monitoring system.
The 'double checking system' will cover eight of the ten products and track both the issuing of export licences in China and import licences delivered by the EU, according to the EU executive.
"I welcome this further step in the cooperation between the EU and China in ensuring a smooth transition to free trade in textiles," said Mandelson.
Despite the elimination of the quota system, the EU's agreement with China on special safeguard arrangements – allowing for action to be taken in the event of a surge in imports that causes serious harm to EU industry – will remain in force until the end of 2008 and Mandelson's spokesman, Peter Power did not rule out future action. "There is still the possibility that somebody somewhere would ask for activation of safeguard measures," he said.
However, in a letter to Italy's Corriere della Serra, Mandelson said that the quotas had given European industry sufficient "breathing space" to adapt and restructure. He therefore called on Europe's textile and clothing manufacturers to resist the temptation to request new safeguard measures and to react to China's mass production competition by being "smarter and more creative".
Bill Lakin, director-general of the European Apparel and Textile Organisation (Euratex), which represents European manufacturing interests, told EurActiv that the double checking system was now "the best way forward".
Asked whether Europe could expect a fresh surge in imports from China, he said: "I do hope not. And, I think the Chinese don't want that any more than we do…We hope for a degree of limited growth in 2008."