By  on December 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — U.S. textile groups have outlined policy recommendations for President-elect Barack Obama’s trade review team as the new administration begins formulating an agenda that will affect billions of dollars of global commerce.

The National Council of Textile Organizations and American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition submitted proposals that include increasing resources for enforcement of trade agreements, creating separate advisory committees for domestic producers and importers, and cracking down on alleged subsidized Chinese imports.

Obama, who will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president on Jan. 20, has solicited advice from hundreds of business, labor, governmental and consumer advocacy groups. His transition team has started posting the recommendations on its Web site at change.gov under the heading “Your Seat at the Table.”

A review of the Web site did not turn up policy recommendations from retail or apparel importer groups.

Textiles played a key role in Obama’s win in North Carolina, where he pledged to support five key textile-industry policy positions, including a monitoring program for Chinese apparel and textile imports.

Cass Johnson, president of NCTO, placed an emphasis on China in his policy paper, reiterating the industry’s long-standing call to extend a Vietnam import monitoring program, which expires at the end of the Bush administration, and expand it to include imports from China. Quotas on 34 apparel and textile import categories from China expire at the end of 2008.

“NCTO is concerned that if Chinese exports surge in early 2008 that a significant time gap between staffing key decision-making positions in the Obama administration could result in the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. textile jobs — and hundreds of thousands of apparel jobs in other apparel-producing countries,” Johnson said.

Johnson reiterated the industry’s push to pursue a case at the World Trade Organization against China over alleged illegal apparel and textile subsidies. The Bush administration said it is considering filing a textile subsidies case against China at the WTO.

Both groups advised Obama’s trade transition team to overhaul the U.S. trade office, arguing that it is underfunded and understaffed and focuses too much on trade negotiations and not enough on enforcement.

“This lopsided approach has led to a proliferation of free trade agreements along with a sizable emphasis on the World Trade Organization Doha Round, with little attention as to whether the rights of U.S. manufacturing and service providers are being violated in the international trade arena,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of AMTAC.

Another recommendation made by both groups is to establish new requirements for participation in the government’s industry trade advisory committee.

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