A major diplomatic row between China and the West is in the offing, worse than the bitter stand-off last year between Beijing and Brussels over suspension of imports of shoes, underwear and shirts, among other things, made there.
Already piqued over the withdrawal of 18 million Chinese made toys worldwide by the US toy giant Mattel and taking off the shelves of children jewellry in Britain, the Chinese authorities have retorted that the recalls and complaints are motivated by trade protectionism rather than safety.
This has been promptly refuted by EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, who described the allegation as “totally false”. But the row is set to cause intense heat as the alerts could cost Chinese loss of billions.
The Chinese anger has boiled over after New Zealand authorities conveyed to the trading standard officials in Britain that cheap clothes made in China have been found to contain high levels of a potentially dangerous chemical.
The worry in China apart, the High Street retailers here would be concerned, too, as most are dependent on garments imported from China. Last year when the ban had come in most stores were alarmed at the depleting stock of shirts, trousers and bras.
Imports have soared 500 per cent in 10 years to £20billion a year.
Formaldehyde is used to protect clothes that have to be shipped great distances against mildew. But, it is alleged that long-term exposure to high levels can be harmful, causing problems ranging from minor skin rashes to some types of cancer. “Any consumer worried about harm caused by clothes they have bought should contact the retailer or report their concerns to trading standards,” a spokesman for the Government’s new department for business, enterprise and regulatory reform was quoted saying in the Daily Mail.