The US textile industry clamored Sept. 15 for new government safeguards against surging Chinese imports, accusing Beijing of negotiating in bad faith on a political deal to regulate the trade. A coalition of industry organizations filed petitions with the U.S. government demanding the renewal of nine quota safeguards covering sixteen categories of Chinese textile imports through to the end of 2006.
Nearly 400,000 US textile and apparel manufacturing jobs - 38% of the total -- have been lost since 2001, primarily due to a flood of subsidized Chinese clothes, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations.
The U.S. quotas were due to expire at the end of this year, but industry officials said there was no hope of China taking their protests seriously after high-level talks in Beijing last month failed to achieve a breakthrough.
"This is a crisis and the government has within its power the ability to help hundreds of thousands of workers and companies now," said Mark Levinson, chief economist of the UNITE HERE trade union. Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said the petitions were in line with safeguards allowed by the World Trade Organization. "This is simply a determined effort on the part of the U.S. industry to make sure we exercise our rights under the WTO and we prevent China from monopolizing the U.S. market through its use of unfair trade practices," he said. Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said the safeguards need to be renewed "because China is refusing to negotiate seriously on a comprehensive bilateral agreement".
To the anger of U.S. and European textiles producers, Chinese garment exports have rocketed since a global quota system was abolished on January 1 in line with WTO guidelines to liberalize the trade. Over the past seven months, Chinese apparel exports to the U.S. have rocketed by 850 million items, an average increase of 627%.
The textile groups denied that the U.S. clothes industry risks replicating a crisis that hit the EU in recent weeks when millions of Chinese garments were impounded at EU ports because they breached quota limits. Many of the garments had already been ordered by European companies before the EU and China reached an agreement in June to regulate the textiles trade.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005