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Commerce Department Approves Petitions For Relief From Chinese Imports

Washinigton Outlook

Commerce Department Approves Petitions For Relief From Chinese ImportsIn response to petitions filed by US textile manufacturers, the US Department of Commerce announced today that it will begin negotiations with China that could result in the imposition of temporary import quotas on brassieres, dressing gowns and knit fabrics. The action was taken under the so-called safeguard mechanism in the US/China textile agreement that allows the US to impose quotas on products that are found to cause market disruption.In making the announcement Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said: This decision demonstrates the Bush administrations commitment to our trade rules and American workers. I believe this will advance our future dealings with China, for no market operates fairly without open dialogue. We look forward to beginning our consultations with the PRC with the goal of achieving a mutually beneficial result on this issue.While negotiations will begin soon, there is no guarantee quotas will be imposed, but todays action strengthens the possibility of that happening. The National Retail Federation was quick to react to todays announcement, saying the ruling will create shortages that could result in dramatic increases in prices for American consumers while doing nothing to protect American jobs. The retailers charged there is nothing in the factual record that supports the contention that Chinese imports are disrupting US markets.Laura E. Jones, executive director of the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, labeled the action pure politics, also claiming that the petitions filed by the textile industry do not demonstrate market disruption. She said apparently the industry was counting on pure politics to push the administration to impose quotas, and unfortunately it worked. Jones believes placing quotas on Chinese imports will simply shift the trade to other countries.Cass Johnson, interim, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, praised the Commerce Departments action, but said it is only the beginning. He said todays decision sends a strong signal to Chinese officials that they should take immediate steps to cease their attempts to dominate international trade in textiles and apparel, including an immediate end to Chinas blatant manipulation of its currency. Johnson warned that if flooding of the US and other markets with unfairly and illegally undervalued textile and apparel products continues, the industry will demand further safeguard actions.Petitions filed by a united textile/fiber coalition July 24 of this year cited dramatic growth in the three product categories where quotas were removed in 2001. They said imports of dressing gowns grew by 905 percent, brassieres by 382 percent and knit fabrics by 905 percent.By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent November 2003