TEXTILE EXECUTIVES SOUND OFF TO COMMERCE OFFICIAL ON GATT

Byline: M.McN.

NEW YORK--Any discussion of GATT among textile executives is bound to elicit some strong negative reactions, and last Thursday's was no exception.
Executives expressed their unhappiness with the global trade pact during a "GATT Issues Educational Seminar." They directed their ire at claims made by one of five panelists, David Weiler, principal attorney for the Office of Textiles and Apparel at the Department of Commerce, and a proponent of GATT, which still awaits Congressional approval.
Weiler told the more than 200 people at Milliken & Co.'s offices here that, with GATT, "you can compete and prosper in a world of free trade." The session was sponsored by Milliken and the Textile Distributors Association.
Weiler went on to say that the World Trade Organization, the new 117-member-nation body that will enforce the rules of global trade, will provide procedures to investigate global trade wrongdoings. He said his department, too, has put a high priority on transshipment policing, market access, protection of intellectual property and dumping.
His views were opposed by two anti-GATT panelists--Jock Nash, Milliken's Washington counsel, and economist Pat Choat, director of Manufacturers Policy Project, a Washington-based policy organization for private industry--plus several executives in the crowd.
"We have to watch what the government does and forget what it says," said Nash. "They're telling you that GATT is beneficial. That's like a bunch of cattle standing outside a slaughterhouse being told that the food inside is pretty good."
Nash told the group that the winners of GATT will be "the top 20 percent of wage earners, stock market types and the political elite."
Nash added that while some textile and apparel industry magnates may prosper by importing goods from lower cost nations, "the middle class in this country, which is already eroding, will be even harder hit."
"For those U.S. companies that prosper through GATT," he said, "it will be like winning a poker hand on the Titanic."
Choat noted that crime and health care legislation have gotten more play than GATT, "which will have a greater impact on our country than both of those bills put together."
He pointed out that WTO is a one-country, one-vote system. He said that Cuba, a WTO member, has voted against the U.S. in United Nations votes 89 percent of the time.
"Right there, that cancels out any vote we have," Choat said, adding that developing nations will hold 83 percent of the votes of the WTO."
Two other panelists, analyst Josie Esquivel, senior vice president of Lehman Bros., and Tom Travis, managing director of the law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenburg, said that GATT will mean more competition for U.S. firms, so textile firms must explore export opportunities offered by GATT.
The most vocal GATT opponent in the crowd was Carl Rosen, president of JPS Converter & Industrial Corp. During a question-and-answer session, Rosen told Weiler to a loud round of applause, "Why should I trust you? You can't even control one million illegal immigrants nor can you enforce existing laws."
"Why should you trust me?" Weiler responded. "Because we are taking action to insure that rules and laws are followed."

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