ECONOMY

Chinese apparel piling up

BRUSSELS – The European Union will send a team of experts to Beijing this week to address a crisis that has seen millions of Chinese sweaters, trousers and blouses pile up unsold in EU warehouses, the EU executive said yesterday. Bras, blouses and flax yarn are the latest categories of Chinese-made imports that will be restricted from entering the bloc after they breached 2005 quota limits, worsening the lives of retailers seeking cheap goods for the autumn-winter season. The European Commission, which negotiates foreign trade on behalf of the EU25, is under intense pressure from retailers and countries dependent on textile manufacture to sort out the problem and reduce the clothing backlog in EU warehouses. Commission trade experts will travel to China tomorrow to discuss ways to solve the situation with the Chinese authorities, spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy told a news briefing. The annual import limits were agreed with China in June as a way of controlling a surge in Chinese clothing exports to Europe after a decades-old quota system expired on January 1. But within weeks of the new quotas being agreed, they began to be exceeded – starting with sweaters last month – as importers made huge orders ahead of the autumn-winter season. T-shirts are the next clothing category likely to breach the quota limit, according to an EU imports database. «Other quotas may fill this week but we’ll have to see how the situation evolves,» Nagy said. Solution sought EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson wants to negotiate with China to allow more imports, possibly by using some of 2006 quotas this year, and is under pressure from several EU states with strong clothing retail sectors to relax the restrictions. Textile trade experts from the EU25 are due to discuss the Chinese import situation at a meeting this week, pitting countries with influential retail industries against those with important textile industries of their own. Last week, four government ministers from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland warned of job losses and bankruptcies unless the EU eased curbs on Chinese imports. But countries with big national textile industries, like France, Italy and Spain, fear they will suffer if Chinese clothing enters EU markets on a massive scale. «There is a planned meeting on Thursday this week. But events are evolving very fast and this may change,» Nagy said.