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Washington Outlook Archive

Importers Seek Injunction On Safeguards

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The US Association of lmporters of Textiles and Apparel (USAITA) has gone into federal court seeking an injunction blocking the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) from using threat-based safeguards to impose quotas on Chinese imports. The association says CITA is "wrongly considering" the petitions that it has accepted for consideration as part of its accession agreement to the World Trade Organization (WTO). China agreed to a safeguard mechanism whereby import quotas could be imposed if it can be demonstrated that imports are causing or threatening to cause market disruption. Importers and US manufacturers disagree sharply over whether the use of a threat can be justified. In its lawsuit, USITA charges that CITA has accepted petitions based on "anecdotal bits and pieces of information" in violation of the importers' right to due process. Laura Jones, executive director of USITA says the government is accepting petitions that don't even meet its own limited standards," and she charges that CITA has changed the rules without public notification. "For the last year, the government repeatedly assured the import and retail community that no petitions would be accepted based on some future threat.'' Jones said. `

They publicly guaranteed that only when current data was available showing an increase in imports would the safeguard process be deployed. Importers planned their business based upon this information. Then, suddenly in September, the government changed its mind without warning and began encouraging and accepting new restrictions based only on anecdotal bits ad pieces of information, without concrete information showing what is happening in the US market.

Textile lobbyists in Washington responded quickly to the lawsuit with Robert DuPree, vice president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, charging that the importers are simply showing they don't have a leg to stand on," and the facts are clearly on the sidle of the US manufacturers who have filed the safeguard petitions. Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said: "The fact that USAITA is filing for an injunction that seeks to prevent CITA from considering special textile China safeguard petitions on the basis of threat strongly signals that they believe the petitions will be approved if they are decided on their merits. The lawsuit asks the court to enjoin CITA from acting on any of the textile safeguard petitions until the court can rule on USAITA's claims.

December 2004