By  on October 3, 2008

WASHINGTON — A coalition of textile, labor, business and agriculture organizations launched a drive Thursday to seek major reform of U.S. trade policy.

The initiative is aimed at the presidential candidates and members of Congress facing reelection next month.

The Coalition to Fix America’s Economy, which includes the two primary textile trade organizations, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition and the National Council of Textile Organizations, along with 33 other organizations and 75 individual companies, unveiled a policy platform at a news conference on Capitol Hill that it hopes will influence the trade policies of the next president and Congress.

The coalition is pressing elected officials to endorse and support several trade-related principles, including aggressive enforcement of U.S. trade laws, stopping goods from being dumped on the U.S. market below the cost of manufacture, halting subsidized imports that put American firms at a disadvantage and curbing intellectual property theft.

The platform also calls for strong action against currency manipulation, primarily by China, and the passage of legislation that would make currency manipulation actionable under U.S. trade laws. It also advocates the elimination of tax disadvantages that discourage investment in the U.S. and support for trade policies that require “full reciprocity, fairness and transparency,” including labor and environmental standards.

“America’s fascination and now disappointment with our financial bubble has diverted attention from the true sources of prosperity, such as manufacturing,” said George Shuster, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cranston Print Works Co., and co-chairman of the coalition.

Shuster said the platform seeks to “reverse the tragic mistakes” of trade policy.

The coalition’s platform did not include the textile industry’ top lobbying objective of securing an extension and expansion of the Commerce Department’s monitoring program of Vietnamese apparel and textile imports to include Chinese goods from those sectors. The Vietnam monitoring program expires at the end of President Bush’s term.

Textile groups and companies are lobbying for monitoring of Chinese imports because quotas on 34 categories of imported apparel and textile import categories from China expire at the end of the year. The industry fears it will be further devastated by subsidized and dumped imports from China.

Shuster said the coalition did not include industry-specific issues in the platform and sought to keep it general because several industries are represented. In addition, the textile industry has launched its own lobbying effort on China.

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