Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON--The U.S. has set the bureaucratic wheels in motion to impose unilateral quotas on underwear imports effective noon Friday.
The Customs Service, acting in response to a June 16 directive by the administration's Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, notified its field offices that the U.S. for the first time is imposing quotas on underwear made in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Turkey. A similar directive for Thailand is expected to be issued shortly.
Barring a last minute agreement, the U.S. will impose one-year import quotas in category 352/652 as follows:
Colombia, retroactive to March 29, 1,509,880 dozen.
Costa Rica, retroactive to March 27, 14,423,178 dozen.
The Dominican Republic, retroactive to March 27, 16,442,148 dozen.
El Salvador, retroactive to March 27, 3,687,034 dozen.
Honduras, retroactive to March 27, 6,550,810 dozen.
Turkey, retroactive to March 28, 1,291,118 dozen.
The unilateral quota levels equal underwear imports from these nations during 1994.
The directives were issued by Customs Monday and Tuesday, with another setting quotas for Thai underwear imports expected Wednesday. Based on trade during the first quarter of this year, most of these nations are shipping underwear at rates that would exceed the unilateral quotas.
Should the unilateral quotas take effect Friday, the World Trade Organization's Textile Monitoring Board would be required to review the U.S. action and issue a ruling within 30 days. The TMB's failure to reach a consensus--which is possible, since the U.S. is one of its members--would mean the issue could go to the full WTO's dispute settlement panel.
CITA's proposal to impose these quotas has been controversial since they were announced in late March. The exporting countries have balked at it, and several large underwear makers using Caribbean assembly for their products have argued that the quota would only end up harming them.

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