The deal between the EU and China to contain the annual growth of Chinese imports in 10 clothing-textile product categories to between 8 and 12.5 percent until 2008 is a lifeline for the Greek textile industry for the next 2.5 years, although it is less positive than advertised, according to the Hellenic Fashion Industry Association (SEPEE)’s president Telemachos Kitsikopoulos. He explained his sector’s views and demands at the group’s AGM in Thessaloniki yesterday, in the presence of Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou. The meeting was dominated by the competitiveness problems created by the massive influx of Chinese products after January 1, when their imports were liberalized. «The effect of this was that in 2004 as many as 165,000 jobs were lost across Europe and 11,500 textile enterprises closed down,» Papathanassiou noted, fearing more layoffs in 2005. General Secretary for Industry Spyros Papadopoulos stressed that a Development Ministry survey shows some worrying data about apparel and textiles in Greece: Their production index has fallen by 16 percent in 2001-2004 and more than 45,000 jobs have been lost as enterprises shrink or close. He called on Greek companies to utilize the 2.5-year deal between the EU and China, which offers relative protection, and to proceed with leaps of progress in technological modernization, design innovation, upgrading quality and promoting exports and expansion. Kitsikopoulos emphasized that the sector’s production in Greece last year fell by 5.5 percent, as did employment (by 8 percent) and exports (by 8.7 percent), registering a record low for the last decade at 1.25 billion euros. Overall imports rose by 13.4 percent, while those from China rose by 23.7 percent. In the EU, production declined by 5.9 percent and employment by 6.5 percent. The SEPEE president asked the government to take defensive measures, such as fighting illegal trade, and aggressive policy measures, such as a special program to support apparel and textiles with the Third Community Support Framework funds that have not been allocated, and lifting the counterincentives that slow down competitiveness. Papathanassiou announced the government will change the existing public procurement system, which he branded «frail, ineffective and time-consuming,» with a new bill by the end of the summer, while the tender for the National System of Electronic Procurements is also to be proclaimed, so that all procurements are made with full transparency and credibility, he said.