HONG Kong-based representatives of foreign textile firms are cautious about dealing directly with mainland buyers, despite the local business community's growing interest in the China market. Allen Lau Kar-kwan, of textile trading firm Tack Sang Trading, said most customers of foreign textile firms were Hong Kong manufacturers, some of whom had the fabric made up into clothes in their mainland factories. Local branches of foreign traders ''lack the experience and know-how needed to deal with mainland businessmen directly,'' he said. Another trader, Simon Cheng Chun-wah of Lead Trading, said the method of payment also posed a problem when selling fabrics to China directly. Despite the difficulties, Mr Lau said some large textile traders were gearing up to tackle the China market directly with some organising mainland exhibitions to promote their products. Meanwhile, more European textile manufacturers have established businesses in Hong Kong to take advantage of the territory's increasing demand for Western fabrics. Italian trade commissioner Aniello Musella said many local companies were demanding higher quality imported fabrics to improve their market position. Europe was a major source of raw materials for local manufacturers, he added. Hong Kong's textile imports from Italy increased 36 per cent to US$123 million for the six months ended June 30 from the period last year. ''Among the textile products, lace and ribbons experienced the highest growth of 78 per cent. The next was textile yarns with 64 per cent growth last year,'' said Mr Musella.