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China May Go Slow on Exports

BEIJING — A top Chinese official, faced with U.S. textiles industry safeguard petitions and concerns of exporters in poor countries that their trade will be decimated when quotas are lifted Jan. 1, has signaled that his government favors...

BEIJING — A top Chinese official, faced with U.S. textiles industry safeguard petitions and concerns of exporters in poor countries that their trade will be decimated when quotas are lifted Jan. 1, has signaled that his government favors “stable and orderly growth” of exports.

Yi Xiaozhun, an assistant minister of commerce, told a group of Western reporters that China will ask exporters to take a measured approach next year “rather than start a dramatic increase of exports of textiles.”

U.S. imports of Chinese textiles and apparel have increased 24.9 percent in the last year, and are projected to accelerate once the 148 nations of the World Trade Organization end quotas. The WTO nations have the option until 2008 of imposing temporary safeguard quotas on specific categories of Chinese exports to smooth the way toward the free-trade system.

The U.S. has already imposed safeguard quotas on imports of Chinese bras, robes, knit fabric and socks. The coalition of apparel and textile groups seeking to curb Chinese apparel and textile imports reapplied Friday for a one-year safeguard quota currently covering knit fabric, that was set to expire Dec. 23. It marks the 10th threat-based petition. The Committee for the Imple-mentation of Textile Agreements has accepted seven for full review.

Trade diplomats in Geneva, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would welcome restraint, but suggested that Yi’s remarks might be intended to stave off safeguard restrictions.

A high-level European Union official, when asked how trade officials would react to a controlled approach by China, said, “Who would complain?”

An envoy from another Asian textiles and apparel exporting country said, “Even China’s domestic industry has to consider the impact of the American safeguards.”

A Latin American trade official said the Chinese suggestion would provide a small amount of breathing room for other developing nations that are concerned about losing market share to Chinese competition.

“It will give some oxygen to those in need,” the official said.

Yi, who spoke to reporters in Beijing on Nov. 9, offered no details on what method China would use to control its growth and said Beijing would impose no specific numerical restrictions.

“I [would] like to make it crystal clear that exports growth in textiles in a steady, orderly way is by no means a voluntary export restriction [VER],” he said. “VER is a dirty word in the multilateral area. So by no means would we use such VERs to administer China’s textiles exports.”