US-Chinese talks on a dispute over American efforts to restrain surging imports of Chinese underwear and other textiles broke down yesterday, the chief US negotiator said, leaving little chance of a settlement before Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) visits Washington next week.
A brief written statement issued by US envoy David Spooner didn't say whether the two sides had made any progress.
"Despite our best efforts we were not able to reach a broader agreement," the statement said. "We will be consulting with the Chinese over the next few days on the date and location of the next round."
Washington has imposed controls on the growth of imports of some low-priced Chinese textiles, which have surged since a worldwide quota system expired on Jan. 1. US producers complain that the flood of goods threatens to wipe out thousands of jobs.
Talks aimed at negotiating controls on a broader range of products began on Tuesday and were to last two days. They were extended into yesterday, though US negotiators were doubtful they could reach an agreement.
The dispute is especially sensitive amid rising US frustration at the country's soaring trade deficit with China, which reached a record US$162 billion last year. Washington says the trade deficit this year is running 32 percent above that level.
Chinese officials argue that developed countries should focus on selling higher-tech goods such as airliners and not try to block China's exports of low-cost items like socks and underwear.
The Chinese government hasn't commented on the talks, but state media have suggested that Beijing's position might be strengthened by an uproar in the EU over a backlog of Chinese textiles at European ports under a quota system negotiated in June.
"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 on Wednesday.
In Europe, some 75 million pieces of Chinese-made clothing are stuck in customs houses for exceeding import limits, prompting European retailers to complain that their store shelves may go bare.
In Brussels, the EU head office said on Wednesday there was growing consensus among member states to unblock the Chinese textile imports held up at Europe's borders.