By  on January 27, 2005

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it will appeal a preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. Court of International Trade, as the legal battle intensified over whether the government has the authority to impose limits on Chinese textiles and apparel imports.

Ending nearly four weeks of speculation, Justice Department lawyers filed a notice of intent to appeal with the CIT in Manhattan. The appeal seeks to overturn the injunction imposed on Dec. 30 barring the government from accepting or reviewing a slew of China safeguard petitions that are based on the threat of market disruption.

“We are trying to figure out what the deadline [for the actual appeal] is once you file a notice of appeal with the CIT,” said a spokesman for the Justice Department. “We think it [the deadline] may be 30 days, but I have a feeling it will be far sooner than that. It may come quickly.”

Global textile and apparel quotas, which had controlled trade for more than   30 years, expired on Jan. 1, and that monumental change in international trade rules stirred up a firestorm of controversy over China’s potential to monopolize production and displace millions of workers around the globe.

China remains subject to an agreed-upon safeguard or temporary quotas through 2008 in categories where importing nations determine its shipments have caused or threaten to cause market disruption. A coalition of textile, fiber and some apparel producers, as well as the union UNITE HERE, seized on the safeguard mechanism in October and filed 12 petitions targeting some $1.9 billion in Chinese imports for further quota restraints.

In response, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel took the dramatic step of suing five federal agencies on Dec. 1 in federal court, claiming the government violated its own published regulations and the Administrative Procedures Act, when it agreed to accept safeguard petitions based on the threat of disruption as opposed to actual harm.

The government’s appeal is expected to be filed with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. Separately, the government has until Feb. 7 to reply to USA-ITA’s opposition to its motion to dismiss the case with the CIT.

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