American Shipper

U.S. textile collation petitions for continuing China safeguards

U.S. textile collation petitions for continuing China safeguards

   A coalition of six U.S. apparel, textile and fiber-producing associations and one labor union has petitioned the Bush administration to impose additional safeguards that would restrict goods from China in 15 of the 91 product categories on which apparel and textile quotas will expire Jan. 1.

   The petitioning groups are the National Textile Association (NTA), the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), the National Association for the Sewn Products Industry (SEAMS), the National Cotton Council (NCC), the American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA), and Unite Here!, a labor union.

   Their first petition, filed Oct. 8 with the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), covered categories 347/348 pertaining to cotton trousers. Another nine petitions were expected by Friday, covering categories 647/648, man-made fiber trousers; 444, wool trousers; 338/339, cotton knit shirts; 638/639, man-made fiber knit shirts; 340/640, man-made fiber shirts; 352/652, cotton and man-made fiber underwear; 361, cotton sheets; 620, synthetic filament fabric, and 301, cotton yarn.

   The coalition of domestic textile interests also said it would be filing three further petitions to extend one-year safeguards placed by the U.S. government on Dec. 24, 2003, on the following categories: 350/650, cotton and man-made fiber dressing gowns and robes; 349/649, cotton and man-made fiber brassieres, and 222, knit fabric.

   In its filings, the U.S. manufacturing coalition has essentially asked the Bush administration to extend most apparel and textile quotas affecting China for another year, avoiding from that one source any impact on U.S. 'domestics' from the worldwide falling-away of quotas at the end of 2004.

   CITA, a five-member interagency group, has 15 business days to accept or reject the petitions. The 15th business day after Oct. 8 is Nov. 1, one day before the U.S. presidential election.

   CITA's membership includes representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, Labor and Treasury, as well as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. At least three of those agencies must vote to approve any safeguard petition.

   If CITA accepts one or more of the petitions, the public has 30 days to comment, and then CITA has 60 days to make its final decision.

   Karl Spilhaus, president of the NTA, told Shippers' NewsWire the exact wording of the petitions would not be made public by the domestic coalition. CITA has no obligation to release the texts during the 15 days it has either to accept or reject them. After that, the petitions have to be made public.

   American apparel and textile importers, who had expected the petition filings, nevertheless reacted angrily.

   'It is outrageous that, in our democratic society, we still have a government body that would entertain secret petitions involving basic consumer goods,' said Laura E. Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA).

   'Instead of using the 10-year quota phase-out to prepare to compete internationally, the domestic textile industry is throwing all of its energy into exerting last-minute political pressure to keep the protection they have had for 40 years. It is high time they realized they were supposed to be weaned off that tired old formula,' USA-ITA said in a statement.