ECONOMY

European textile industry feels the heat of Chinese imports

The European clothing and textile manufacturers’ association, EURATEX, is seriously concerned about the steep rise in imports from China. In a press briefing in Brussels earlier this week, EURATEX President Filiep Libeert called on the European Commission to adopt urgent measures, warning that the scheduled full abolition of quantitative restrictions as of December 31, 2004 will cause a further deterioration in the problem with a serious impact on Community production and employment. Nikos Koumlis, the president of Greece’s Association of Knitwear and Clothing Manufacturers (SEPEE) and a member of EURATEX’s board of directors, says problems arising from the aggressive Chinese textile products export policy are already clearly visible on domestic production. SEPEE has made repeated representations to the Greek government and called for measures to deal with the unlicensed street clothing trade that has proliferated in recent years. Other national counterpart organizations have made similar moves, along with EURATEX itself. «Both the European Commission and the member states must intensify their efforts for China to conform to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to anti-dumping regulations, the abolition of subsidies and, especially, the elimination of the illegal importation and trade in textile and clothing products in European countries,» says Koumlis. According to Libeert, the capture of such a large trading share by a single country in such a short time has additional far-reaching repercussions. «It renders useless any attempt by the EU to promote trade and sustainable development that would help the most needy countries,» he says. In a broader context, the Commission and the member states have no option: They either defend their legitimate interests or they suffer the consequences, the closure of a large number of enterprise – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – and a rise in unemployment. «China’s membership in the WTO brings with it the rights and obligations which that country seems to ignore in some degree,» said Libeert, stressing that in several cases it has been confirmed that China has not eliminated non-tariff barriers, discrimination against imported goods and knockoffs (unauthorized imitations).» Additionally, in most categories of products on which barriers were lifted on January 1, 2002, there was a frenzied increase in import volumes from China while average prices fell by 75 percent. China has devalued its currency by over 40 percent, while firms borrow at rates of around 1 percent and receive export subsidies. There is also a question about how the huge investment in equipment has been financed since 2000, Libeert said. EURATEX members include Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco.