updated 5/30/2005 2:02:00 AM ET 2005-05-30T06:02:00

China on Monday revoked plans to sharply increase export tariffs, backtracking on a move aimed at averting a trade war with the United States and Europe.

The government gave no explanation for the step but noted it came after the United States and the European Union moved to restrict imports of Chinese clothing and textiles.

European and U.S. textile makers say their livelihoods have been threatened by a surge in Chinese exports since a worldwide quota system ended on Jan. 1.

China imposed a 1.3 percent export tax on textiles in December on the eve of the end of global quotas, but American officials said that was too low to make a difference. Earlier this month, China said it would sharply increase those tariffs.

But in mid-May the United States imposed import quotas on Chinese-made cotton pants, underwear, synthetic fiber shirts and other goods. The quotas limit annual growth of Chinese textile imports to 7.5 percent — well below the 54 percent jump reported so far this year by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Then, on Friday, the European Union took its dispute to the World Trade Organization, forcing an immediate curb in shipments of T-shirts and flax yarn.

China lashed out at the 25-nation bloc on Sunday.

“It not only sent the wrong signal of trade protectionism to the European industry, it also harmed the rights that Chinese enterprises should enjoy in the globalization of textile trade,” Commerce Ministry spokesman Chong Quan said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site.

Chong stressed that China was a “responsible member of the WTO and has already adopted a series of positive measures on its own initiative.”

According to EU figures, imports of Chinese T-shirts rose by 187 percent in the first four months of 2005, compared to the same period last year, while imports of Chinese flax yarn rose by 56 percent.

Under the terms of China’s WTO membership, if another member state can establish that Chinese textiles are disrupting the market, it may request bilateral consultations at the WTO.

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