By  on April 25, 2005

GENEVA — European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Sunday he authorized safeguard investigations on nine Chinese textiles and apparel product categories following a surge in imports.

The increases in imports from China ranged from 51 to 534 percent during the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. The product categories include T-shirts, pullovers, blouses, stockings and socks, men’s trousers, women’s overcoats, brassieres, flax or ramie yarn, and woven fabrics flax, Mandelson said in a statement released Sunday in Brussels.

“Our investigation will enable me to decide whether the EU should introduce safeguard measures. Chinese exports should, of course, be allowed to grow at normal speed following the removal of quotas. But we must also extend protection to European Industry if it is faced with a ruinous surge of unprecedented proportions,” the EU trade chief said.

The Chinese product categories listed for investigation included seven of the 12 product lines identified by the European Apparel and Textile Manufacturers Association (Euratex) on March 9, plus the addition of two categories — T-shirts, up 164 percent, and flax yarn, up 51 percent.

Under the EU China safeguard guidelines — unveiled on April 6 — the investigation is expected to last a maximum of 60 days and will include informal consultations with China.

If the EU determines at the end of the investigation that a serious market disruption has taken place, it can request China to remedy the situation through quantitative export restrictions that hold export shipments to the level of the last 12 to 14 months prior to the launch of the investigation, plus 7.5 percent.

However, if China fails to act to limit exports, the EU can without delay restrict imports at the same levels.

According to customs data supplied by the EU’s 25 member countries, imports of pullovers in the fist quarter of this year were up 534 percent compared with the same period last year. Similarly, men’s trousers were up 413 percent, blouses up 186 percent, women’s overcoats up 139 percent, stockings and socks up 183 percent, brassieres up 63 percent, and woven fabric flax up 257 percent.

Asked about the price declines on the targeted imports, Claude Véron-Réville, spokeswoman for the EU trade Commissioner, said according to customs data, the prices of pullovers in the first quarter fell by 47 percent while T-shirts dropped 26 percent and blouses fell 24 percent. Men’s trousers dropped 16 percent, women’s overcoats fell 15 percent while prices on brassieres declined 22 percent.

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