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US, China unable to reach pact on textiles

BEIJING -- US-China talks failed to settle a dispute yesterday over American efforts to rein in imports of low-cost Chinese textiles, amid signs that China's position was strengthened by the pileup of its goods at European ports over quotas.

However, the US side, which had been scheduled to head home today, said the talks would go into a third day today.

''The United States and China continue to hold discussions on textiles trade in Beijing. Negotiating teams from both countries are set to reconvene talks at 8:30 a.m. [today] in Beijing," said Neena Moorjani, a spokeswoman for US Trade Representative Rob Portman in Washington.

Still, US industry groups were not optimistic that both sides will be able to come up with an agreement in advance of a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington next week.

''It appears that it's over this week, and no agreement has been reached," said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, who was in Beijing.

''The Chinese were not prepared to reach an agreement this week," he said. ''The European situation did muddy the picture."

In Europe, some 75 million pieces of Chinese-made clothing are stuck in customs for exceeding import limits, prompting European retailers to complain that their store shelves may go bare.

China's Commerce Ministry didn't comment on the talks yesterday, but government-run media cited the European pileup as evidence that import quotas don't work.

''This trade fiasco demonstrates that protective measures, at best, are zero-sum games for those who resort to them," the official China Daily newspaper said in its lead editorial.

In Brussels, the EU head office said there was growing consensus among member states to unblock the Chinese textile imports held up at Europe's borders.

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