Chinese textile facing complaints from EU textile industry

Europe's textile industry is urging the European Union to clamp down on surging Chinese exports, in a sign of mounting concerns over China's assertiveness as a global trade power.

Less than two months after the US took action to restrict trade with China, European industry leaders said they planned a formal complaint to the European Commission as a test case that could trigger other calls for protection.

The European industry move came as China on Wednesday imposed dumping duties of up to 55 per cent on steel imports from five countries - a further sign of Beijing's increasingly aggressive protectionism.

China has long been the biggest target of anti-dumping actions by other countries. However, it began launching its own anti-dumping cases - against imports priced at allegedly unfair levels - only in 2002.

The complaint over textiles is fresh evidence of concern in Europe and the US about growing competition from China, which is estimated last year to have become the world's third biggest exporter and importer.

Washington announced import restrictions on several types of textiles and clothing from China in November, claiming a dramatic rise in Chinese imports was destroying American jobs.

Brussels has so far adopted a more cautious tone. However, the textiles complaint, which may trigger a formal Commission investigation, will add to pressure for a tougher European trade stance towards China.

The complaint concerns a recent sharp rise in imports of filament fabrics, a type of synthetic fibre, and is expected to reach the Commission in the next few days.

Filiep Libeert, president of Euratex, which represents Europe's textile and clothing industry, said: "We believe that this is an obvious case for prompt action by the EU."

Euratex said textile imports from China had led to a sharp drop in prices in the EU and threatened to squeeze out competition from other low-cost Asian producers. Mr Libeert said that in 2002 China's EU market share in some textile sectors had multiplied several times while average prices fell by as much as 75 per cent.

He said: "It surely cannot be in the interests of EU manufacturing for one country to take over such a large share of imports in such a short space of time. It makes complete nonsense of all the EU's efforts in relation to sustainable trade and development."

The industry is urging the Commission to use a provision in China's World Trade Organisation membership agreement that allows other countries to take unilateral action if a surge in imports from China threatens their producers.

The so-called special safeguard mechanism is widely viewed as one of China's trading partners' most powerful trade weapons. The US is the only country so far to have used provisions in China's WTO agreement to limit imports, in the face of intense diplomatic pressure from Beijing.

Olivier Prost, a Brussels-based trade lawyer for Gide Loyrette Nouel, said: "China is very concerned about this provision. They are making a lot of pressure so that WTO members do not use it, or use it very cautiously."

Source: agencies

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