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'Pragmatic solution' urged for textile quotas
Updated: 2005-08-25 09:42

But Mandelson nonetheless stressed that the June "agreement stands."

"It addresses, with the Chinese, a temporary, short-term need to respond to the extreme public fears and political pressures that built up over the Chinese textiles exports engulfing European markets and displacing goods from other developing countries," he added.

The EU originally sought the quotas following pressure from EU textile manufacturers who warned they could not compete with a huge influx of cheaper Chinese rivals following the end of a four-decade international quota system at the end of last year.

"Although there was never going to be a problem-free way of dealing with the issue, the (European) Commission has taken a reasonable, balanced line and we will stick to it," Mandelson said.

As negotiators jetted off to China, retailers kept up the pressure for the most flexibility possible.

The Free Trade Association, a Brussels-based lobby for big retailers such as Auchan, C and A, Inditex and Karstadt, warned the sector faced "unprecedented losses because of the quotas.

"European trade calls for full flexibility regarding the quota for the years 2005 to 2007. The quota for all three years should be added and become instantly available until December 31st, 2007," FTA president Ferry den Hoed said in a letter sent to Mandelson on Tuesday.

But ahead of the talks in Beijing, EU officials were careful not to reveal what European negotiators would be put on the table.

"Everyone is in agreement that the goods (blocked by customs) have to come in," said an official who participated in the meeting between member states, adding that it remained to be seen under what terms this could be done.

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