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Trade Official Sees No Need For Quotas On Chinese Textile Imports

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A leading Bush administration trade official does not see any need for renewed quotas on Chinese imports of clothing and textiles, because China is not expected to fill this year’s quotas that are due to expire December 31.

Christopher Padilla, under secretary of commerce for international trade, said: “We have faced calls to impose new quota restraints even though China will not even fill its existing quota level for imports this year.” Padilla cites a number of reasons for this, including rising production costs in China and a shift to other markets in Asia. He also noted that the value of the yuan, China’s currency, has appreciated by about 20 percent since 2005, and that is a contributing factor in the decrease of Chinese exports.

The US textile industry and its supporters in Congress have been pressing for a textile and apparel imports monitoring system that could eventually lead to imposition of new tariffs or quotas or both. One proposal would ask the Department of Commerce to establish a monitoring program similar to the expiring program for Vietnam. That’s not very likely to happen under the Bush administration. At the same time, the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee has asked the International Trade Commission to provide it with information that could lead to imposition of trade restraints. The commission will make its first report to the committee by December 1, but no action is expected until after the Obama administration takes office.

Meanwhile, Bush administration officials, including the president, continue to press for approval of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) before the end of this year. In the midst of all of the turmoil in Congress and the administration regarding the economic stimulus package, President George W. Bush reportedly has used the Colombian agreement as a bargaining chit in connection with the effort to modify the stimulus package to include some aid for the ailing automobile industry. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez said in a speech last week that the Colombia FTA and those with Panama and South Korea should be approved “with the same urgency that we passed the economic stimulus package.” The Colombia FTA has the backing of US textile manufacturers and importers, but it is strongly opposed by organized labor.

November 25, 2008