Apparel importers warn U.S. textile negotiators not to repeat mistakes
Talks begin Tuesday in Beijing between U.S. and China negotiators to produce an agreement that would limit imports of textiles and clothing made in China.
These negotiations are the culmination of demands of U.S. domestic yarn and fabric makers for re-imposition of quotas that expired Jan 1.
Under terms of China's accession to the World Trade Organization, importing countries can seek to temporarily re-establish textile and clothing quotas if increased imports from China cause disruption in domestic markets. The United States has invoked this 'safeguard' provision seven times since May. The provision expires at the end of 2008.
This time, in Beijing, 'the United States must not create yet another textile agreement that leads domestic manufacturers to believe that they have a right to permanent protection, or that puts importers and retailers at risk of shortages and sticks consumers with unnecessary and regressive price hikes,' said Laura E. Jones, executive director of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA).
'2005 was supposed to be the end of the quotas, but instead we face the end of the quotas, part two. This time, we have to get it right. If we must have an agreement, then we have to make sure that it puts in place a system that guarantees that the quotas will finally end once and for all when the agreement expires,' Jones said in a statement.
Under terms of the Uruguay Round of Textile Agreements, 1995 marked the beginning of a gradual, 10-year phase-out of a 40-year-old global quota system. However, the Clinton Administration postponed lifting, until the very end of that decade, quotas that covered more than 90 percent of the apparel trade.
'The result was that, instead of a gradual adjustment to normal trade, in 2005 there was a cliff. We can't afford an agreement with China that repeats that mistake,' Jones explained.
U.S. textile manufacturers are pressing the negotiators in Beijing for limits on imports that would allow domestic textile producers more breathing room to cope with a flood of apparel goods from China since Jan. 1.