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Industry Steps Up Pressure On White House To Act On Imports

Washinigton Outlook

James A. Morrissey, Washington Outlook

Industry Steps Up Pressure On White House To Act On ImportsThe domestic textile industry and its supporters in Congress are pressing hard for the White House to act on Chinese imports and other trade issues. At a Capitol Hill news conference Oct. 29, leaders of the Congressional Textile Caucus announced that 139 representatives and 26 senators from 36 states have signed letters urging the administration to invoke a special safeguard mechanism and place renewed import quotas on three categories of textile products where they contend there have been huge import surges since quotas were removed in 2002. They say that since 2001, imports of Chinese dressing gowns have increased by 905 percent, brassieres by 382 percent and knit fabric by 28,000 percent.Noting that 314,000 textile and apparel workers have lost their jobs since January 2001, Bruce Raynor, president of the textile union UNITE, said: The catastrophic job losses must stop. The continued job losses highlight the immediate need for implementation of the China safeguard.A petition submitted by a united textile/labor coalition asking the government to implement the safeguard mechanism is pending before the Department of Commerce.The congressional letters also urged the administration not to include tariff preference levels (TPLs) in the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. TPLs permit a set amount of inputs from countries that are not a party to the agreement to enjoy special duty and quota treatment. The textile industry views TPLs as a loophole, but importers contend they encourage flexibility in sourcing goods.James W. Chesnutt, CEO of the National Spinning Co. and vice-chairman of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), said: When elected officials from three-fourths of the states are sounding the alarm, it sends a powerful message about the impact trade policies will have on the 2004 election for Congress and the White House. And if we dont get the actions we need from our own government, I would expect that the American textile industry, which has embarked on a massive vote registration drive to get our workers to the polls, will be looking for new leadership in Washington.In a related development, Cass Johnson, acting president of ATMI, sharply criticized the US Treasury Department for not citing Chinas currency manipulation as grounds for negotiations. The textile industry contends that Chinas manipulation of its currency treasury department has ducked a chance to aggressively pursue China within the full force of US law. By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent November 2003