USA-ITA BLASTS PROPOSED BURMA TRADE-BAN BILL
Textile and apparel importers blasted a proposed Senate bill, introduced by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Jesse Helms, R-N.C., which would ban imports from Burma, also known as Myanmar.
'We don't need a ban; we need alternatives,' said Laura E. Jones, executive director of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, which represents more than 200 importers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and related service providers. 'It just so happens that most of the trade from Burma these days is apparel.'
Jones said Congress needs to look at why apparel imports from Burma have increased. 'the import numbers were not that big a few years ago. But companies import from Burma simply because there is no place else to go.'
She said the Clinton administration 'steadfastly denied requests by exporting governments for increases in quotas to keep up with the ever-expanding U.S. market.'
Much of the increase in trade from Burma is knit shirts and cotton sweaters, two product groups that are under quota restrictions from most suppliers, but not Burma, said Julia K. Hughes of International Development Systems Inc., an economic consulting firm. 'The quotas on these garments are filling very fast this year and it looks like many of them will embargo well before the end of the year,' she said.
Burma is a member of the World Trade Organization, which precludes the establishment of trade barriers. Imposing a ban on goods from Burma could provide Burma with the basis for initiating a challenge against the United States in the WTO, Jones pointed out.
Jones said the USA-ITA will ask U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to increase quotas from other suppliers.
'The (Bush) administration could kill several birds with one stone — demonstrate its willingness to liberalize textile, allow the market to move the trade out of Burma and into the countries that do play by the rules, and avoid violating WTO rules,' she said.