The European Commission has negotiated another restrictive annual textile and clothing trade deal with Belarus, imposing tight quotas on a wide range of products that the proto-Soviet state can export to the European Union.

The deal covers many clothing lines, including shirts, T-shirts, and trousers for 2006.

However, the mere fact that the EU is imposing quotas puts Belarus in a small unlucky gang of non-World Trade Organisation (WTO) members who have restrictive access to the EU textiles market. The list also includes North Korea and (oddly) Montenegro.

The Commission said the illiberal deal was agreed "in view of the political situation prevailing in Belarus", where President Alexander Lukashenko maintains a harsh intolerant regime.

The new deal does however allow Belarus to export more clothing and textile products to the EU than last year, but only if Belarus keeps tariffs on EU exports at 2003 levels. If not, Belarus access to the EU will remain at 2005 levels.

By Keith Nuthall.