Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON--About a dozen underwear manufacturers are to discuss, in a conference telephone call today with the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, the recent decision by the administration to limit Caribbean underwear imports.
The conference, initiated by Ron Sorini, senior vice president of government relations and international development for Fruit of the Loom, has been organized to give those on all sides of the proposal a chance to have their say with the AAMA on this controversial move. At present, there are no quotas on underwear imports from the Caribbean.
Michael Gale, AAMA director of government relations, said the association still has taken no stance on the matter, but may after the conference call.
Soon after the decision to limit imports was announced, however, Gale criticized it on the grounds that many AAMA members assemble underwear made of U.S. fabric in the Caribbean, motivated by the government's 807 programs. Under 807, products assembled in the Caribbean using fabrics cut in the U.S. can be imported with only a value-added tariff. Under the 807(A) programs, Caribbean-assembled products of fabrics both created and cut in the U.S. receive not only the tariff break, but virtually unlimited quota as well, or what's called guaranteed access levels.
The limits are to be set in talks that have been called for by the administration's Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, saying the underwear imports threaten to disrupt the domestic market. The Caribbean countries involved are the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Colombia. Consultation calls were also issued against Thailand and Turkey.
Rita Hayes, CITA's chairman and the Commerce Department's deputy assistant secretary for textiles, said the goal of the calls on the CBI nations is to convert much of the 807 production to 807(A) and thus require the use of U.S. fabrics if the underwear from the Caribbean is to get unlimited quota.
Along with Fruit of the Loom, those invited to participate in the conference call include representatives of The Lovable Co., Maidenform, Jockey International, Warnaco Group, Sara Lee Corp., Val D'Or, Ithaca Industries, Kellwood Co., The Harwood Cos., Bestform and Vanity Fair Mills.
Representing the split of opinion among the firms, Sorini supports the idea of setting quota, while a Kellwood executive, Jerry Rhoads, director of exports and imports, pointed out that the firm, having switched much of its sourcing to Caribbean and Central American countries at the encouragement of the U.S. government, is against import limitation. Kellwood's assembly operations help protect U.S. jobs, Rhoads said, because they use primarily U.S. textiles. But, he added, echoing an opinion expressed by some other firms, Kellwood prefers to ship under 807 rather than 807(A) because the latter involves more paperwork.--Fairchild News Service

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