Chinese toy exporters have won a key victory in their fight against the European Commission to lift restrictive quotas on the 1.7 billion ecu (about HK$14.77 billion) Sino-European toy trade. At a ruling last month, the EC agreed toy components and accessories would no longer be subject to toy quotas, but the trade would still be subject to EC surveillance 'in order to ensure adequate monitoring of the volume and prices of the imports concerned', the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers said. Quotas on glass and tableware are also to be abolished from next year. The EC's decision on toys, which has followed an intense three-year lobbying campaign spearheaded by the newly named Toy Industries of Europe (TIE), effectively means toy components can now be imported from China without a licence. It should spark a surge in imports of toy components from the mainland for assembly in Europe, and is designed to answer criticisms of the Sino-European toy industry and preserve European jobs. 'Previously, companies manufacturing in Europe felt frustrated that imports of cheap components were being restricted through the quota,' the TIE said. 'In many cases, this forced them to source against higher costs, automatically making their end products more expensive.' Quotas are still in existence covering stuffed toys, toy weapons and non-human creatures, but lobbyists argue they are severely underused. TIE secretary-general Maurits Bruggink said that last year a third of the quota on Chinese imports were used, and this year under utilisation of the quota could be up to 80 per cent. 'Our ultimate aim is to get the whole quota removed,' Mr Bruggink said. Rather than creating more jobs in Europe, the quota system has been criticised for increasing the costs for consumers by forcing manufacturers and importers to source elsewhere, and adversely affecting the sales of Chinese manufacturers. There is also thought to be an increase in illegal toy exports from the mainland. Guangdong province is the largest source of toys for the European Union, with about 2,000 companies operating there. Last year, Guangdong's sales reached 5.2 billion ecus.