WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department today is set to release a roadmap to follow in deciding whether to slap quotas on apparel and textiles from China, if agency officials decide U.S. producers are being harmed by imports.

With China’s low-cost imports surging — in the first quarter this year they skyrocketed 125 percent — domestic textile officials have been clamoring for limits. U.S. officials have delayed acting on industry requests, claiming they needed to create procedures first.

The regulations don’t spell out any thresholds or other criteria for Commerce’s Committee for Implementation of Textile Agreements to follow in deciding whether to impose limits, according to an advance copy of the rules to be published in the Federal Register.

The rules do set out deadlines for CITA to meet in responding up or down to requests from U.S. manufacturers, unions or workers for quotas and for consultations with China. The whole process could take up to seven months. Specific import and market share data from industry will also be weighed.

China is being treated differently in the World Trade Organization as far as textile and apparel quotas, which members of the global trading body have agreed to eliminate by 2005. In its bid to join the WTO, China said it would allow WTO members to unilaterally set quotas anew — for up to one year — on textiles and apparel products deemed to be disrupting domestic producers’ markets.

Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade with the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said the so-called China safeguard regulations “certainly favor the domestic industry.” She said the rules are too broadly drawn about allowing even U.S. producers of components of a product to request quotas or producers of goods directly competitive with an import.

The domestic textile lobby, which contends no regulations were even needed, seemed pleased decisions on quotas could now go forward.

“No one can argue there isn’t a surge from China and our industry is not being hurt,” said Augustine Tantillo, Washington coordinator for American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.

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