Textile Producers Not Among Tariff Initiative Backers

By John S. McClenahen Textile manufacturers, a group that regularly portrays itself as particularly injured by imports, are notably absent from a 24-sector coalition that is supporting the Bush Administration's newly announced proposal to eliminate tariffs on consumer and industrial goods by 2015. The coalition, organized by the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), does include makers of carpets and rugs, construction and mining equipment, copper and brass mill products, chemicals, cosmetics, distilled spirits, environmental products, fertilizer, fish and seafood products, printing and publishing technologies, processed foods, energy products, IT and electronics products, pharmaceuticals, paper products, soda ash, sporting goods, toys, steel products, wood machinery, wood products, medical equipment, and gems and jewelry. "This is a bold and gutsy proposal," says Brink Lindsey, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a free-market oriented Washington, D.C., think tank. "It aims to finish the job begun over a half-century ago with the formation of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade: the conversion of the world into a duty-free zone for manufactured goods." The trade field for manufactured goods is badly in need of leveling, contends Jerry J. Jasinowski, NAM's president. "U.S. tariffs on machinery, for example, average less than 2%, while American exporters face tariffs of 20% and up in too many parts of the world." The U.S. proposal was presented to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week in Geneva. The proposal envisions a two-step process: reducing or eliminating certain tariffs, including many industrial tariffs, between 2005 and 2010; and equal annual cutting to zero of the remaining tariffs between 2010 and 2015. The proposal is not likely to be quickly adopted by the WTO, partly because of the increasing power of economically developing nations within the organization. Notes Cato's Lindsey: "Most developing countries continue to coddle so-called 'infant industries' behind high tariff walls, and . . . it will be politically difficult to build support in those quarters for a zero-tariff world."

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