U.S., Vietnam Textile Talks End Without Agreement

By Agence-France-Presse Vietnam and U.S. textile negotiators wrapped up their opening round of talks Feb. 21 without signing an agreement on reducing the volume of Vietnamese apparel and garment exports to the United States. The 10-member U.S. delegation, led by David Spooner from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, declined to comment on the negotiations. The two sides are expected to meet in Washington in the coming months for a second round of talks on securing the controversial accord. U.S.-based textile and apparel manufacturers are pushing the Bush Administration to impose quotas on Vietnamese clothing exports. However, the move has drawn cries of protectionism from Vietnam, where labor costs are much cheaper than those incurred in the U.S. Vietnam says its apparel and garment exports to the United States account for a fraction of total U.S. textile imports. U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from Vietnam stood at $803 million in the 11 months to November 2002, an increase of 1,556% over the previous period, according to official U.S. figures. Vietnam has been joined in its tussle to head off any quotas by 35 U.S. retail and manufacturing heavyweights, including Nike Inc., Gap Inc. and K-Mart Corp., for whom Vietnam is an important source and counterbalance to China. They argued in a Feb. 6 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick that Washington's "rush to seek quotas is very troubling" and could result in supply shortages. U.S. trade officials have played down the talks, saying that Hanoi had been fully aware of Washington's desire to secure a textile deal similar to the United States' 1997 accord with China since signing a bilateral trade agreement in July 2000. Vietnam recently revised its textile agreement with the European Union, allowing the country to increase sales by 200 million euros a year. It still has to be ratified by member states. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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