GENEVA — Chinese envoys at the World Trade Organization successfully blocked four seminars on how textile and apparel exporters could handle the dissolution of the 30-year-old quota system.

That raised the ire of officials from smaller exporting nations, many of which are seen as likely to lose market share to China after the WTO’s 148 nations drop fabric and garment quotas on Jan. 1.

“They [China] can’t dictate to us what should be on a regional seminar agenda,” said an ambassador from a poor Asian apparel exporting country, who requested anonymity.

The seminars were to be held as part of the WTO’s technical assistance plan for 2005, one of the few measures the group has agreed on in a bid to help poorer nations manage the change.

A WTO official confirmed that during a session of the global trade agency’s Committee on Trade and Development in November, China “raised a fundamental objection” over the textiles and apparel seminars, but had no problem with the other projects.

Delegations from Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius and Benin objected to China’s stance, and were adamant that the textiles and apparel seminars be held in the future, the WTO official said.

Quota Watch: Embargoes

Retailers and importers are keeping a close eye on many apparel categories with high fill rates that are expected to embargo before the holidays. Customs has placed embargoes on nine apparel-related categories this year, which means that no more of those goods can be imported from those countries until next year. In addition, Customs has placed 10 categories “on hold” and will not allow entry of any additional products until it closes the category. All three original categories of Chinese imports subject to safeguard quotas — robes and dressing gowns, knit fabric and bras — now are under embargo.

This story first appeared in the December 7, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Country Product Quota Limit Usage to Date Status
China Bras 16.8 million dozen Full Embargoed
Mexico Cotton and man-made fiber apparel TPL* 45 million SME Full Embargoed
Mexico U.S.-cut apparel and textiles TPL* 25 million SME Full Embargoed
China Cotton sateen fabric 5 million SME Full Embargoed
China Cotton and man-made fiber robes and dressing gowns 4.1 million dozen Full Embargoed
India Men’s and boys’ woven cotton and man-made fiber shirts 3.4 million dozen Full Embargoed
China Knit fabric 9.6 million kgs Full Embargoed
Mexico Wool apparel TPL* 1.5 million SME Full Embargoed
Bulgaria Wool coats 33,340 dozen Full Embargoed
Philippines Men’s wool suit coats 3,746 dozen 99.7 percent Hold
Pakistan Cotton trousers 1.97 million dozen 99.4 percent Hold
Vietnam Cotton knit tops 15.6 million dozen 99.3 percent Hold
India “Group II” cotton and man-made fiber yarn and fabric 201.4 million SME 99.1 Hold
Philippines Wool sweaters 35,917 dozen 98.6 percent Hold
Canada Wool apparel TPL* 5.3 million SME 95.8 percent Hold

*Under the NAFTA agreement, Mexican and Canadian apparel manufacturers are allowed to use a limited amount of fabric made outside the region in garments that still qualify for duty-free benefits. This provision is called the Tariff Preference Level, and after the TPL cap for a year is met, the garments in question become subject to duty; SME: Square Meters Equivalent, KG: Kilograms;