Textile Import Safeguards Moving Forward
By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent
The textile industry's efforts to limit Chinese imports by imposing new temporary import quotas received a boost when Bush administration trade officials agreed to consider quotas on seven product categories, and a federal court lifted an injunction on requests for seven more.
The interagency Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) on April 27 agreed to consider a request from a textile coalition to start a safeguard action to limit imports of Chinese non-knit men's and boys' cotton and man-made fiber shirts ( Category 340/640), cotton and man-made fiber sweaters ( Category 345/645/646), cotton and man-made fiber brassieres (Category 349/649), cotton and man-made fiber dressing gowns (Category 350/650), man-made fiber knit shirts and blouses (Category 638/639), man-made fiber trousers (Category 647/648) and some synthetic filament fiber fabric (Category620). \
CITA will conduct a 30-day review during which interested parties may submit comments on the requests. After that, CITA will make a determination within 60 days as to whether the imports are disrupting the US market and if an affirmative decision is reached, it will seek consultations with the Chinese government on limiting the imports. As of the date consultations are sought, a quota will be put in placed to limit imports from China of those textile and apparel products that are determined to be disrupting markets.
In a related development, a US Court of Appeals overturned an injunction against seven product categories where the US government self-initiated an action that could result in new quotas on cotton shirts (Category 338/339), man-made fiber shirts (Categories 638/639), non-knit shirts (340/640), cotton and man-made fiber trousers (Categories 347/348), cotton and man-made fiber underwear (Categories 352/652), combed cotton yarn (Category 301) and man-made fiber trousers (Category 647/648). In the case of these products, the action was based on a threat of marker disruption rather than a demonstration of actual market disruption. Because the action was self-initiated by the US government, CITA could rule immediately on market disruption and seek consultations with China. In lifting the injunction, the court said the government had made a strong case that is likely to succeed on its merits.
The US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USAITA), the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the National Retail Federation are strongly opposed to the self-initiated action. While expressing disappointment over the court's action, Laura E. Jones, USAITA's executive director, said, "We have accomplished much already, demonstrating to the government that the importing and retailing community will stand up for its rights and will speak our when the administration tries to change the rules to suit political whims." She said she believes in the end the importers will prevail and they will have a real opportunity to participate in the rule-making process
Although the Chinese government agreed to the use of the safeguard mechanism as part of its
accession agreement to the World Trade Organization, Chinese government trade officials are
strongly opposed to the use of safeguards at this time, contending that such actions run counter to
the principles of free trade.