By  on March 16, 2005

WASHINGTON — A Chinese Ministry of Commerce delegation plans to meet here with U.S. trade officials at the end of the month amid the increasingly strident debate over curbing China’s apparel and textile exports.

Two officials at the Chinese embassy in the nation’s capital, who asked not to be identified, confirmed the talks between the Chinese and officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce.

The Chinese government-run news agency Xinhua, citing Wang Shenyang, president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Textiles, reported this week that the delegation will try to convince the U.S. to forgo imposing quotas on its textile and apparel exports. The report also said China plans to hold talks with European trade officials in Brussels on the same topic.

Chinese embassy officials, however, said the discussions in Washington will not be textile-specific, but it is likely the issue of surging textile and apparel imports from China will surface. A Commerce spokeswoman said Tuesday the agency has not been contacted by the Chinese about a textile delegation meeting.

“We do have an ongoing dialogue with China regarding trade issues,” she said. “We haven’t been contacted to my knowledge about any special textile delegation coming.”

The timing of a meeting comes as tensions rise over China’s growing economic dominance and its potential to take over global apparel and textile production, which may imperil the jobs of 30 million workers worldwide.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told the European Parliament Tuesday he intends to publish guidelines on the use of safeguards on Chinese imports of textiles and apparel, which would set out clear “danger signals.”

Mandelson said that if Chinese import levels in any sector were to reach such danger zones, the EU would consider imposing safeguards.

But he stressed such a decision would not be “one that should be resorted to lightly nor automatically.”

Imports of apparel and textiles from China into the U.S. market rose substantially in January — the first month of unrestrained global apparel and textile trade in more than 30 years — prompting U.S. textile and fiber producers and the union UNITE HERE to ratchet up pressure on the Bush administration to self-initiate China safeguard cases and impose fresh quotas on key categories.

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