EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has promised to take action if there is a sudden upsurge in textile imports from China when clothing safeguard quotas are lifted on 1 January 2008.

His comments came during a debate on the future of Europe's textile industry yesterday (13 December), in which EU lawmakers and officials called on the Commission to study import trends in the first quarter 2008 and stop the market being swamped by cheap Chinese clothes.

Their concerns follow a decision by the European Commission in early October to lift existing temporary quotas on a range of imports from China - but to monitor incoming shipments for one year from 1 January 2008.

The monitoring measure does not limit how much China can export, but relies instead on a "joint import surveillance" scheme to track Chinese export licenses and European export permits in eight categories - T-shirts, pullovers, men's trousers, blouses, dresses, bras, bed linen and flax yarn.

However, while Europe hopes China will ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, Mandelson said: "In face of a sudden upsurge in Chinese textiles, the Commission stands ready to use all of [the] instruments at its disposal."

MEPs believe the double-checking surveillance system will be of little use unless it prevents the surge in imports from China to the EU that took place following the lifting of international quotas in 2005.

They also want new safeguard measures need to be enforced, covering product categories specified by Member States.

New trade barriers to slow textile and clothing imports include safeguard or anti-dumping measures if there is evidence of damage to the EU industry.