By  on December 17, 2004

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department, seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by importers challenging the government’s authority over China safeguard petitions based on the threat of market disruption, said in court papers “there is no constitutional right to import.”

The justice department, representing five federal agencies, responded in a 69-page motion filed late Wednesday to importers who want an injunction thwarting action by the Bush administration to limit the anticipated onslaught of Chinese imports once global apparel and textile quotas are lifted on Jan. 1.

The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel filed the suit Dec. 1 in the U.S. Court of International Trade in Manhattan seeking to stop further review and acceptance of China safeguard petitions intended to continue quotas. It also questioned the right of the interagency Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, known as CITA, to control imports in that way.

The justice department’s strongly worded brief said the court lacks jurisdiction to consider USA-ITA’s complaint because the safeguard petitions under review have not been decided by the CITA. It said USA-ITA does not have the right to challenge CITA’s deliberations and has not exhausted the administrative remedies provided by CITA to challenge the safeguard petitions.

Government lawyers told the court the importer group failed to “state a claim for which relief may be granted,” and said CITA is exempt from the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act and is therefore not in violation of the act, as charged by the import group, and that CITA has not moved beyond its delegated authority.

In response to USA-ITA’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the government argued:

  • USA-ITA cannot establish importers have “undue hardship sufficient to justify interference with a continuing interagency process.”

  • The public — in particular textile and apparel manufacturers — would be harmed by an injunction halting CITA’s reviews.

  • USA-ITA is unlikely to prevail upon the merits of the case.
The government argued that China’s World Trade Organization (for related story, see page 14) accession agreement contains provisions that allow for member countries, including the U.S., to take safeguard actions against imports of Chinese apparel and textile products based upon the “existence or threat of’’ disruption of the market.

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