Blog: Leonie BarrieEleventh-hour deal

Leonie Barrie | 6 September 2005

It’s more than a little ironic that two months after negotiating a solution to halt soaring imports of Chinese textiles and clothing into the EU, a new solution to that solution has just been brokered. Confused? Well it’s certainly been the industry saga that’s dominated the headlines throughout summer 2005, but the latest news from Beijing and Brussels is that Chinese clothing blocked at European ports could be released from the middle of next week – as long some of the more protectionist elements in the EU’s member states approve of the re-negotiated quotas.

Under the terms of the latest deal, half of the impounded garments would be allowed into the EU, while the other half will be deducted either from China’s 2006 textile quota or switched to other unfilled-quota categories. In volume terms, this means around 38 million more garments will be allowed into the EU than originally agreed. 

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said the solution was “satisfactory and equitable.” Referring to the difficulties that had arisen on implementing the agreement signed in Shanghai in June he conveniently forgot some of the accusations lobbed at him over the past couple of weeks: “When member states were pressing me to negotiate I said that there were difficulties to operate an agreement like this. We have to make sure that the agreement is managed smoothly and that we listen to all, importers, suppliers, retailers and textile producers.”

Mandelson added that: “Europe needs two to two and a half years to manage the transition” to no quotas at all – conveniently forgetting that the industry has already had 10 years to prepare for the scrapping of quotas, as well as around four years to get used to the idea the safeguards on Chinese imports were more likely than not to become a reality. But as Mike Flanagan notes in this month’s ‘Flanarant’ (as we fondly refer to his no-holds-barred take on some of the key issues swirling round the industry) input from these importers, suppliers, retailers and textile producers has long been conspicuous by its absence.

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