September 15, 2005

US textile groups seek longer curbs on China trade

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. textile industry asked the
Bush administration on Thursday to extend emergency import
curbs on billions of dollars of clothing from China beyond
2005, U.S. industry officials said.

"The reason we need to do this is because China is refusing
to negotiate seriously on a comprehensive bilateral" textile
agreement, said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council
of Textile Organizations. "We will continue to file and refile
safeguard petitions until China is willing to come to the table
and negotiate seriously."

The Bush administration has slapped emergency import curbs
on 16 categories of textile and clothing from China so far this
year in response to a surge after a global quota system came to
an end on January 1. However, those curbs expire at the end of
2005, unless a decision is made to renew them.

U.S. and Chinese textile negotiators will hold talks in
Washington on September 26-27 to see if they can reach a
bilateral textile deal, the U.S. Trade Representative's office

The two sides have made little progress toward that goal in
earlier rounds of talks. The United States has pushed for a
broad agreement lasting through 2008. China wants a shorter
pact covering fewer product categories.

World Trade Organization rules allow the United States and
other WTO members to impose emergency import curbs on Chinese
clothing through the end of 2008. However, the "safeguards"
have a limited life and must be renewed periodically.

U.S. clothing importers urged the Bush administration to
reject the latest safeguards request, which they said would do
nothing to stem job losses in the textile industry and could
lead to higher prices for consumers.

With department stores already reporting flat sales or
worse before Hurricane Katrina hit "and consumers so wary about
spending now that oil and gas prices are so high, clearly it is
not the time to be throwing uncertainty into the economy," said
Laura Jones, executive director the U.S. Association of
Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez announced on
Thursday that importers could donate to victims of Hurricane
Katrina any clothing -- such as socks, trousers, shirts and
underwear -- that has been barred from entering the country
because of the safeguards.

The government has taken that step after U.S. clothing
importers asked "if their embargoed goods could be donated to
the relief effort," Gutierrez said in a statement.

The requests for renewed curbs cover cotton knit shirts,
woven shirts, cotton trousers, bras, underwear, synthetic knit
shirts, synthetic trousers, combed cotton yarn and synthetic
filament fiber. Industry officials said they plan to file
additional petitions next week asking for curbs on several
categories of clothing not currently restricted.