US Trade Representative Rob Portman and Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai announced the deal at a joint news conference in London on Tuesday and hailed it as a success for both sides.
“I believe the textile agreement shows our ability to resolve tough trade disputes in a manner that benefits both countries,” Portman said.
Bo described the outcome as a “win-win result”, though he later said the agreement was “a far cry” from Beijing’s original expectations.
The accord was reached after seven rounds of negotiations, at some of which Bo said the two sides had been “almost at the edge of a cliff”.
The deal covers more than 30 products and contains quotas that a US statement said would begin at low levels.
An unnamed US official said the accord would allow hundreds of thousands of Chinese garments piled up in US ports to be sold.
The deal is intended to smooth over a rough spot in the US-China trade relationship before President George Bush visits Beijing in the middle of this month.
Bush is expected to visit China
China’s exports of clothing and textile products to the US jumped more than 50% in the first eight months of 2005 to nearly $17.7 billion after the end of a global quota system on 1 January.
That prompted US textile producers to seek protection under a “safeguard” provision of China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organisation.
The measure allows WTO members to restrict the growth in imports from China to 7.5% annually when there is a market-disrupting surge.
The Bush administration has imposed safeguard curbs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese clothing imports this year.
But because the curbs have to be renewed annually, textile groups have pushed for a comprehensive agreement that would limit imports until 2008 when the safeguard provision expires.