The European Union has agreed to increase emergency quotas on Chinese sweater imports that have already surpassed their exports limits for 2005, providing relief for retailers who feared empty shelves as the products were stopped from being shipped.

The agreement, which was signed by a majority of Europe's governments, frees millions of goods that have been held up during transit over the past ten days.

According to EU trade spokeswoman Claude Veron-Reville, exports that exceed the agreed limits this year will be taken away from quotas in 2006.

The EU says that it must commence negotiations with China before it can determine the amount of additional items that can be passed.

China signed a deal in June to restrict exports of certain clothing and textiles products after they flooded world markets following the end of global quotas in January.

However, sweaters reached their agreed limit in July, with other items said to be nearing their maximum levels.