WASHINGTON -- Developing countries are gearing up for a highly anticipated battle to reduce apparel and textile duties in the new round of global trade talks within the World Trade Organization.The International Textile and Clothing Bureau, an organization comprising 25 developing nations with a big stake in apparel and textile exports, tackled those issues at its annual meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, last week. Among the countries represented in the group are Argentina, Bangladesh, China, India, Peru, Pakistan, Guatemala and Honduras.The ITCB, in a communique, vowed to take a proactive stance against what it deems protectionist signals from developed countries.Stuart Harbinson, chairman of the ITCB and former chairman of the WTO, who helped launch a new round of global talks last November in Doha, Qatar, warned the countries last week that protectionist campaigns in the industrialized world are "seeking to undermine liberalization of trade promised in the sector."He told the group in Hanoi they should anticipate a major challenge by "protectionist interests" in Western countries to reducing high tariffs on textile and apparel, according to a statement."A development agenda that perpetuated such anomalies would not be worthy of its name," Harbison said in the statement.Developing countries, led by India and Pakistan, nearly derailed the launch of a new round of global trade talks in Doha. They have continued to call for an acceleration of the elimination of quotas as embodied in the Uruguay Round, which established a 10-year phaseout of quotas on textiles and apparel set to expire on Dec. 31, 2004.Brenda Jacobs, general counsel of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, who attended the meeting in Hanoi, said importers warned the developing nations of an increase in the use of trade remedy laws beginning in 2005, when all quotas are lifted on textile and apparel imports.Importers are concerned about a textile-specific safeguard provision in China's WTO accession agreement, which allows the U.S. or any other WTO member to unilaterally reimpose quotas on apparel and textiles from China for one year, from 2005 through 2008, if the country can prove imports are hurting the domestic industry.There is also a second provision, known as the product-specific safeguard, which allows countries to invoke safeguards on behalf of most industries through 2013."

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