The European Union (EU) Council of Ministers has authorised a significant increase in the protection of EU polyester filament fabric producers from cheaply dumped Chinese exports.

It has raised the main anti-dumping duty for Chinese producers of woven fabrics of synthetic filament yarn containing 85% or more by weight of textured and/or non-textured polyester filament, dyed (including dyed white) or printed.

This will now rise from 56.2% to 74.8%. Many Chinese companies are allowed under the regulation to pay lower rates, but many of these too have also been increased by the ministers: Zhejiang Shaoxiao Printing and Dyeing Co's duty hike from 37.1% to 55.7% being a good example.

These rises follow complaints from EU fabric producers about the ineffectiveness of existing anti-dumping duties, imposed in 2005.

AIUFFASS (the international association of artificial and synthetic threads and silk threads), representing more than 30% of EU production, claimed that following the original duties' imposition, China export prices have actually decreased.

"This allegedly resulted in an increase of dumping" said a European Commission assessment presented to the council and AIUFFASS "also provided evidence that imports of the product concerned from China have continued to enter in significant quantities the EU market."

Meanwhile, the council also authorised the European Commission to reopen textile and clothing trade quota talks with Belarus, one of a handful of countries with whom the EU has restrictive limits regarding textile and clothing imports.

Given Belarus has become a potential ally in the EU's political struggle with Russia regarding energy, the country could this year push for larger quotas than in its current EU textile trade agreement. In the past, Brussels' generosity has been hampered by human-rights concerns.

Belarus is applying for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, which would liberalise its EU textile and clothing trade, but Brussels can block Belarus' WTO entry.

By Keith Nuthall.