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ATMI Urges Congress Administration To Adopt More Equitable Textile Trade Policies

In wide-ranging testimony submitted February 7th to the Senate Finance and House WaysandMeans Committees, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) called on Congress and the Bush Administration to make a number of changes to current trade policies in order to ensure equitable treatment for the struggling U.S. textile industry. The two committees were holding hearings February 6-7 on President Bushs trade agenda for 2002.The ATMI testimony noted that, at a similar hearing exactly eleven months ago to the day, it had listed three basic principles which should govern U.S. trade policy and trade agreements affecting textiles:1) trade agreements must be fair and equitable to the domestic industry; 2) trade agreements must be enforceable; and 3) the U.S. government must exhibit the will to enforce trade agreements.However, the association noted, while its support for these principles has not changed since its testimony eleven months ago, "What has changed since that date is that over 100 U.S. textile mills have closed and over 60,000 U.S. textile workers have lost their jobs . Today, the U.S. textile industry is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." ATMI cited "an enormous and destructive increase in the value of the dollar," particularly against the currencies of Asian textile exporting countries, as a major cause of the industrys woes. ATMI said, "The Administration should abandon its strong dollar policy and move judiciously in concert with other countries to gradually bring the value of the dollar down. This would have a more beneficial long-term impact on the entire U.S. manufacturing sector, including textiles, than almost any other single step."Turning to pending trade issues, ATMI urged Congress and the Administration to fulfill the various commitments made to textile state representatives during the debate over trade promotion authority, "without any compromise or further delay. To do otherwise would be an unconscionable breach of trust and call into question why textile state Members of Congress should allow the president to negotiate trade agreements without maintaining Congress ability to modify the legislation implementing such agreements." ATMI also expressed concern that "the WTO Ministerial Declaration and other documents agreed to in Doha by the U.S. and other WTO members will encourage Asian exporters to keep their textile markets closed." In its testimony, ATMI pointed out that, "the Doha agreement does not prohibit India and other countries from continuing to hide behind protective barriers while simultaneously enjoying far greater access, and seeking even greater access, to our markets at the expense of U.S. textile jobs."Regarding tariffs, ATMI said that it "continues to urge that the United States adopt specific objectives and guidelines concerning U.S. textile and apparel tariffs. These objectives must include freezing U.S. textile and apparel tariffs, and forcing Asian and other countries to bring their tariffs down to U.S. levels and remove their non-tariff barriers without delay." Finally, ATMI reiterated its call for the United States government to "reject any efforts to weaken U.S. trade laws" as part of the new round of global trade talks.On other issues, ATMI urged that any Free Trade Agreement of the Americas "must be fair and beneficial to U.S. textiles, it must have enforceable rules and the government must be willing to enforce those rules." It said, "The textile and apparel rules in an FTAA must have origin requirements that prevent countries outside the agreement from becoming beneficiaries. The rules must also allow for cross-country Customs verification and have reciprocal tariff phase-outs. Enforcement is key; each time that free trade is expanded, the opportunity for goods from outside the free trade region to enter illegally is expanded as well."ATMI reminded the committees that the House-passed Andean Trade Expansion Bill "would cost thousands of U.S. textile jobs at a time when our industry is already reeling from its worst economic crisis since the 1930s." The testimony highlighted the fact that the bill would allow a huge amount (nearly one billion square meters equivalent by 2006) of apparel made of regional instead of U.S. fabric to enter the U.S. duty-free, which would cause further job losses in the U.S. textile industry. It also noted that, in a provision completely unrelated to helping the Andean region, the measure would double the volume of Sub-Saharan apparel that can be made from "regional" or third country fabric. ATMI pointed out that this would "benefit Asian fabric and yarn producers and severely limit the possibility of U.S. textile exports to AGOA countries and a meaningful economic partnership developing between U.S. textile producers and African apparel makers." Finally, with respect to a possible free trade agreement with various Central American countries, ATMI said, "We question the need for beginning such negotiations less than eighteen months after the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) went into effect. All five of the nations identified by the U.S. Trade Representatives Office for possible inclusion in these negotiations are CBTPA beneficiary nations. It would seem more prudent to allow apparel manufacturers in these countries to continue to develop economic partnerships with U.S. textile producers, as provided for under CBTPA, before rushing to establish new relationships and rules."For a copy of the February 7, 2002 ATMI congressional testimony, or more information on the crisis in the U.S. textile industry, go to the ATMI website at www.atmi.org. EDITORS NOTE: ATMI is the national trade association of the textile mill products industry with members engaged in the manufacture of yarns, fabrics, home furnishings and other textile products. The U.S. textile industry employs approximately 450,000 workers.