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Textile News
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Congressmen Seek Support For Textile Agenda

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Leaders of the Congressional Textile Caucus are circulating a letter to their colleagues seeking support for the textile industry’s agenda. Their goal is to get enough signatures to put pressure on administration trade officials to act favorably on key issues.

A letter to US Trade Representative Rob Portman underscores the economic importance of the industry and expresses concern over what is being reported about the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks and the accession of Vietnam to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The letter says: “We believe that unless the US government takes specific steps, these talks will likely cause large job losses in the US textile and apparel sector. We are committed to working with you to ensure that the concerns of this industry, which contributes $75 billion through textile production and $2.7 billion through apparel to our GNP [gross national product], and is the third largest exporter of textile products in the world, are addressed at this critical juncture.”

The letter calls for sectoral textile negotiations in the Doha Round and “substantially equivalent” concessions that would ensure fairer and more open opportunities for both the United States and its trading partners. It expresses concern the current talks are framed in a fashion that will produce an “uneven outcome.” The letter says sharp cuts in US textile tariffs will “ almost certainly dismantle our various preferential trading programs that are dependent on zero-duty arrangements.”

With respect to Vietnam, the letter says: “Like China, Vietnam has a large and subsidized textile sector that utilizes anti-free market principles to under-price producers here in the United States and elsewhere. Just as with China, the United States must insist on a textile safeguard system or an extension of the current quotas until these unfair subsidies are removed.”

The congressmen warn “failure to address these concerns will substantially impact our view of the administration’s legislative trade agenda from this point forward.”

Although a tentative agreement has been reached between the United States and Vietnam, domestic manufacturers believe they have opportunities to modify any final agreement. They are seeking congressional support to get the agreement changed before it is finalized on a bilateral basis, and it will be subject to multilateral negotiations in the WTO. This is likely to remain a highly contentious issue for some time.

May 23, 2006