Mandelson attempts to unblock Chinese garments

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EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will come forward with a proposal that would allow China-made garments blocked in customs warehouses to be freed before mid-September.

Mr. Mandelson remained silent about the details of his upcoming proposal, to be presented during the fifth day of EU-China textile talks on 30 August 2005. He asked, however, for support from all EU member states. “If they cooperate I believe we will be able to unblock all the goods currently held at customs by the middle of next month,” Mr. Mandelson told the BBC. 

80 million items, most of which have been bought by retailers to hit the stores in the profitable pre-Christmas season, have been blocked in warehouses when quotas negotiated with China earlier this year were filled for six out of ten textile categories. Under the agreement, which was concluded as a reaction to the end of global textile quotas at the beginning of 2005, Chinese textile exports to the EU are allowed to grow by 8 to 12 % per year. 

EU countries with strong textile producing industries such as Spain and France are backing a rigid adherence to the agreement’s terms. Others, like Britain and the Nordic countries, speak in the interest of retailers, who want to put the cheap garments, many of which have been ordered before the agreement’s conclusion and are already paid, into the shelves while they are still fashionable. 

Possible solutions to the impasse could include booking part of next year’s quotas to 2005 or using hitherto unfilled quotas for the same purpose. 

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