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Washington Outlook Archive

US Cuts Vietnam Textile And Apparel Imports

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Bush administration trade officials have announced they will reduce Vietnam's textile and apparel import quota this year by 4.5 percent because some of the products used in establishing a quota base were illegal imports. During negotiations of the US/Vietnam bilateral agreement, domestic textile interests charged that some of the products used to determine the base for the agreement were not made in Vietnam and therefore, were illegal transshipments. Government trade officials have determined that in fact some of the imports entering this country had counterfeit certificates of origin. As a result, the current quota, worth $1.8 billion, will be reduced by $80 million.

The United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USAITA) reacted sharply to the announcement, accusing the Bush administration of playing politics with textile trade. Expressing shock and anger, Laura E. Jones, executive director of USAITA, said the administration has decided electoral politics is more important than consumers pocketbooks, adding that the cutbacks are a political ploy to make the domestic industry feel better in the face of the impending removal of quotas from all World Trade Organization (WTO) members by January 2005.

Jones said the US government is taking advantage of Vietnam because it is not a WTO member. The administration has been trying to get China to agree to more quotas, but they can't do it because China has rights as a WTO member, so Vietnam is taking the fall instead, Jones said. She warned that in a year when quota restrictions remain tight shipments from Vietnam will be needed to help avoid shortages.

US textile manufacturers, likewise, were disappointed in the governments action, charging that the base for Vietnam's imports and its annual growth will include substantial illegal shipments. Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said Vietnam, a country with a history of corruption, is being rewarded at the expense of US production and jobs.

May 2004