Angry EU trade group seeks help from Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 1994, 12:00am

THE recent European Union's ruling to slap quotas on seven China-made consumer items has met with opposition from European importers who, in turn, have petitioned the Chinese Government to intervene on their behalf.

Europe's Foreign Trade Association (FTA) - which represents big importers of Chinese consumer goods, including department stores - had turned to the Chinese Government because the association was unhappy with the EU authorities' response to their opposition to the import quotas.

FTA delegate-general Dr Helmut Wienholt in a telephone interview from Cologne said: ''We felt that the authorities were not going to listen to our views, or take any action, so we decided to ask the Chinese Government for help as they would be meeting with the EU commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan.

Sir Leon is now in China to attend the 13th Sino-EU Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Co-operation.

''We hope that the Chinese Government will bring forward our arguments with the commissioner.'' The EU ruling on the quotas is expected to take effect on March 15.

The seven items are toys, footwear, gloves, porcelain kitchen and tableware, ceramic kitchen and tableware, glassware and radios.

Dr Wienholt urged that the export restrictions be delayed as much as possible, because orders for the spring, summer and autumn of 1994 had already been placed in China.

According to Dr Wienholt, the imposition of autonomous import quotas (buyers' quotas) was extremely complicated and would result in considerable uncertainties in the planning of purchases.

He expressed fears of a collapse of trade relations if the EU were to adhere to the autonomous import regime which covered such a wide range of Chinese imports.

''There is a danger that these planned unilateral deliberalisation measures could lead to the discontinuation of trade relations between Chinese exporters and European importers,'' he said.

In Hong Kong, the British Chamber of Commerce said that the quotas would increase bureaucracy and put pressure on operating costs.

The chamber said companies would now have to apply for licences to move goods from China to Europe.

The chamber's executive director, Christopher Hammerbeck, said: ''We do not welcome any growth in bureaucratic delay.'' The row over the quotas arose out of the merging of the 12-member states into a single market on January 1 last year.

Prior to the single market, each of the 12 had their own quota for imported goods.

With the merger, the EU was left with either completely liberalising the quotas or replacing each individual country's quota with a community quota.

EU chief in Hong Kong Etienne Reuter said yesterday that the EU quotas were a liberalisation of trade because they replaced 4,700 national quotas.

''The quotas only affect nine per cent of China's total exports to Europe,'' said Mr Reuter.