Chinese imports rose 534 per cent in the quarter

Pressure for curbs on some of China's leading clothing exporters intensified yesterday as Brussels unveiled data showing a "dramatic" surge in imports to the European Union across a range of textiles made in China.

The European Commission said it would launch an inquiry into nine categories of &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Chinese imports - mostly standard items of clothing such as stockings, socks, blouses, bras and T-shirts - worth €1.1bn ($1.4bn) in the first quarter. The sharpest increase concerned pullovers, where imports rose 534 per cent in the quarter.

An investigation is the first step in a formal process that could allow the EU to introduce temporary safeguard measures within 150 days. However, Peter Mandelson, trade commissioner, indicated that the EU would prefer not to escalate the row with one of Europe's leading trade partners, saying he hoped China would soon take voluntary action to restrain its exports rather than face sanctions - a message echoed by &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Jean-Pierre Raffarin, France's prime minister, during a visit to China. China has already levied self-imposed duties on some of its textile exports, reports FT News.

Euratex, a Brussels-based lobby group representing companies including Marzotto SpA and Chargeurs SA, has demanded curbs on 12 categories of products to stem the loss of 1,000 jobs a day in the 25-nation bloc. Mandelson accepted seven of the categories proposed by Eurotex as well as two others, t-shirts and flax yarn.

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