Quota Extension Effort Gaining
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent
The US textile industry's effort to obtain support for extending textile and apparel import quotas
beyond 2004 is gaining momentum as Mexico, Turkey and 13 African nations have come aboard.
Expressing fear that world textile trade will be overtaken by only a handful of nations if quotas
are allowed to expire January 1, some textile manufacturing and importing nations would like to see
quotas extended until 2007. Trade association representatives have signed the so-called Istanbul
Declaration, which calls on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to convene an emergency meeting July
1 to reassess the proposed quota phase-out.
Signatories to the Istanbul Declaration are having second thoughts about the January 2005 deadline for ending all textile and apparel quotas. They claim that the world trade picture has changed since the quota phase-out was agreed to in 1995, and they are calling for a full review of the textile and apparel trading picture. They say the agreement was originally intended to benefit textile producers worldwide, but they point to numerous credible studies that show textile trade will be dominated by China, India and, to a lesser degree, countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. The declaration says China's admission to the WTO has irrevocably altered the reasonable transformation of global production and sourcing patterns that the elimination of quotas had originally intended. It further charges that China is using illegal trade practices such as currency manipulation, state subsidies, tax rebates and non-performing loans by government-controlled banks. Trade associations in the 15 countries have vowed to bring the demands of the Istanbul Declaration to the attention of their respective trade ministers and other government officials.
The quota extension effort was launched last month by the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition and the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, who are now engaged in a worldwide effort to gain support from both developed and developing countries. It will be a difficult and uncertain long haul, as governments are likely to be reluctant to back down on their commitments. US Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, for example, has officially notified the WTO that the US continues to support the 2005 phase-out.