The government is launching a coordinated drive of inspections, involving several departments, of Chinese retail outlets in the Athens area, with a view to locating sources of unfair competition against Greek firms and adopting effective measures. At a broad meeting at the Economy and Finance Ministry, attended by officials from the Development Ministry, the police, the Social Security Foundation (IKA), the labor inspectorate and the Financial Crimes Squad, it was decided to set up mixed inspection teams that will scour the 212 Chinese retail outlets in Athens to check whether laws and regulations are being observed. «We are aiming at establishing whether existing legislation is being observed by those importing and selling goods from China. I wish to make it clear that our goal is not to raise obstacles to Chinese imports, but to protect Greek firms and employees from any unfair or illegal practices,» said Economy Ministry General Secretary Ioannis Michalos. Textile industry The Association of Greek Textile Manufacturers (SEVK) on Tuesday complained that the organization and mentality of the Greek state remains the same as it was 20 years ago and cannot help competitiveness in the sector. Speaking at SEVK’s general assembly in the presence of government officials, its president, Eleftherios Kourtalis, nevertheless expressed optimism for the future, despite the present negative climate, saying that Greek manufacturers are making great efforts to upgrade their products and increase exports. SEVK presented a set of proposals, dubbed «Sectoral Strategy for the Textile and Clothing Industries,» for the government’s consideration, noting that the causes of the present crisis are both domestic and external. It said that the government’s recently passed investment incentives are a step in the right direction but not enough for the sector. Further causes of the present crisis are, according to SEVK, the low parity of the dollar against the euro, which undermines exports and makes imports cheaper, and the intense competition from low-cost countries, particularly China. SEVK proposed five main measures for the industry’s survival: They are: the strengthening of the sector through the EU-subsidized Third Community Support Framework; the protection of state procurements for the armed forces as in other EU countries; bolstering competitiveness through managing working costs and reducing social security contributions for three years; cutting tax on profits to 10 percent if invested and supporting exports outside the EU; the elimination of illegal trade in Chinese textile products through effective customs control and supporting the textile industry from Chinese imports on the pan-European level. SEVK noted that the EU is allowed to take measures, according to China’s accession agreement with the World Trade Organization, if the world textile market is distorted. It also called for a ceiling on Chinese imports by 2008, the inclusion of the textile industry in the EU’s research and development programs and for incorporating the sector’s employees in the continuing education programs.