At a textile fair in Paris last September, whenever anyone looking like a Chinese businessman approached the European stalls, people manning them would close shop. 'They were actually pretty rude,' said Nancy Chen, a Hong Kong businesswoman who attended the show. 'There was resentment towards and fear of China's competitiveness among European textile businesses.' Now Ms Chen, an investor relations director of Art Textile Technology International, fears the Hong Kong-listed manufacturer's exports may drop if the European Commission accepts a request by the European textile industry to impose 'safeguard quotas' on Chinese textiles. Art Textile's exports to Europe and the Middle East account for 13 per cent of its turnover, which was $300 million in the second half of last year. Last week, Euratex, the organisation representing the textile industries of European Union states and other countries in the Europe-Mediterranean region, asked the European Commission to impose safeguard quotas on 12 Chinese textile and apparel items. The EU is entitled to impose safeguard quotas on Chinese textile products under an 'anti-surge mechanism' to control an expected increase in Chinese exports after global textile quotas ended in January. The petition to impose the quotas was 'certainly very stressful news', said Willy Lin Sun-mo, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Textile Council. 'Things are getting very tense. We must alert Hong Kong and Chinese manufacturers there will be no smooth sailing and they must diversify.' But Euratex said: 'Chinese prices are so low and Chinese export numbers so huge, it would be criminal not to make the move'. Francesco Marchi, Euratex director for economic affairs, said: 'We are facing a situation that is really explosive. There may be social consequences that are unbelievable', with the EU textile industry employing 2.5 million people. EU orders for Chinese jumpers and waistcoats increased to 91.2 million pieces for the year to yesterday from 85.5 million pieces previously, EU data shows. Just 10.2 million pieces were imported in the first three months of last year. The average price of the items has dropped 38 per cent. So great is the fear of a flood of cheap Chinese textiles, the EU has set up a monitoring system targeting textile products from China. 'I have nothing against Chinese goods. I am against unfair prices,' said Mr Marchi, alleging some Chinese firms exported products at a loss. Ms Chen said while Art Textile's items cost as little as 25 per cent of similar items from Europe or Turkey, the cost edge was achieved within market rules. 'There is still room for Europe's textile industry to survive,' she said. 'Chinese fabric is nowhere near the best in Europe. Garment manufacturers in Italy and northern Europe have a hard time finding quality fabric producers in China.' Mr Lin said: 'The problem we face is partly due to the aggressive pushing down of prices. If manufacturers are not careful, anti-dumping action will be next in line by the Europeans.' He said the end of quotas had benefited sections of Europe's textile industry. 'Some of the best fabric mills in Europe have orders beyond four months. European brands are doing exceptionally well in Chinese markets,' Mr Lin said. 'I hope the European Commission will seek a balanced view before making a decision.'