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Democrats Urge Bush To Break Down Trade Barriers

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The top leadership of the US House of Representatives has urged president Bush to take immediate action to address overseas trade barriers standing in the way of a wide range of US exports including textiles and apparel. A sharply worded letter signed by all 10 leaders of the Democrats in the House says:"It is not enough simply to sign a trade agreement and move on to negotiating the next one. To restore credibility to the trading system, agreements have to be enforced."

The letter was a response to release of the annual National Trade Estimates report on trade barriers to US exports of goods and services, investments and intellectual property rights. The letter says the US Trade Representative (UStr) has carefully documented problems, but has taken no action to redress or eliminate them.

Each year the report documents a variety of tariff and non-tariff barriers used by other countries to protect their markets. Those where textiles and apparel are affected include China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan among others.

"After the loss of almost 3 million manufacturing jobs since January 2001, and the growing problem of outsourcing the services sector, it is time to stop taking inventory and time to start producing results for American workers, farmers and businesses," the letter says. "In the three years that the Bush administration has been in office, the USTR has brought an average of fewer that three cases per year to the World Trade Organization (WTO), while the Clinton Administration brought approximately 10 cases per year."

The letter comes down hard on China, charging that its trading rights and distribution rights effectively bar imports that compete with Chinese goods, and it urges the administration to take immediate action under the WTO's dispute system to ensure that China complies with its WTO commitments. The Democratic leadership also singles out India because of its $9 billion textile and apparel trade surplus with the United States. They charge that India is one of the most protected markets in the world, that Indias barriers to textile trade have been identified for three years running, and that no action has been taken.

The congressional leaders said they plan to introduce legislation to revive a key tool of the US law used in the past that would require the UStr to prioritize dealing with overseas trade barriers.

April 2004