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WTO Delegates Attack EU Quotas

GENEVA — The European Union came under attack in the World Trade Organization Friday from China, India and other developing exporting nations for continuing to keep in place a plethora of import-restrictive barriers on textiles and clothing...

GENEVA — The European Union came under attack in the World Trade Organization Friday from China, India and other developing exporting nations for continuing to keep in place a plethora of import-restrictive barriers on textiles and clothing products.

Sun Zhenyu, China’s WTO ambassador, said his country is “extremely concerned” with the manner in which the EU has implemented the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing and underscored that although seven-and-a-half years have passed, “most of the EU’s quota restrictions” are still in place.

In a similar vein, the Indian delegation argued that the EU “has practically kept quotas on all the categories. India believes that this approach goes against the spirit of the ATC.”

A report on the EU Trade Policy regime by the WTO secretariat notes that the share of restricted imports that the EU has eliminated so far in the first three stages of the ATC is 20 percent, “leaving 80 percent for the final elimination scheduled for the end of 2004.”

The report adds that the figures tend to show the EU has “back-loaded” the liberalization of the quantitative restrictions that under the terms of the ATC accord must be terminated by the end of the 10-year transition period on Jan. 1, 2005, “while meeting the letter of the commitments on integration.”

Hong Kong said that while the simple applied-tariff rate for nonagricultural products has come down from 4.5 in 1999 to 4.1, in the case of textiles and clothing products, they remain high in comparison with other industrial products. The EU tariffs for the more common textiles and clothing products — such as men’s and boys’ shirts, trousers, knitted shirts, knitted blouses and T-shirts — Hong Kong said are all at 11.9 percent and urged the 15-member EU “to consider expeditious actions to reduce the tariff rates for textiles and clothing products to narrow the gap.”

China and Hong Kong took the floor to complain that, in some instances, the EU has eliminated textile and quota restrictions on non-WTO members, while keeping them in place for WTO members.