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Justice Dept. Takes Legal Action

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of International Trade to strike three briefs filed in an importers’ group lawsuit against the U.S. government over China safeguards.<BR><BR>The briefs include one from five...

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of International Trade to strike three briefs filed in an importers’ group lawsuit against the U.S. government over China safeguards.

The briefs include one from five textile mills in support of the government’s claims and against the importers’ lawsuit against the government. The Justice Department said the briefs will not assist the court and could complicate the proceedings.

The government’s request — the latest twist in an unusual case — follows a ruling by the court on Dec. 30 ordering the Bush administration to temporarily stop reviewing several safeguard petitions seeking to curb Chinese apparel and textile imports.

Senior Judge Richard W. Goldberg issued a preliminary injunction requested by the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, which filed suit against five government agencies in early December seeking to stop further review and acceptance of China safeguard petitions based on the threat of market disruption. That ruling temporarily bars the interagency Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements from accepting new threat-based petitions or from further reviewing 12 pending ones filed by a coalition of U.S. textile, apparel and fiber producers and the UNITE HERE union.

On Tuesday, government lawyers asked the court to reject three briefs, two of which were filed by a group of U.S. sock firms and a U.S. shipping association in support of the importers, and one filed by a group of textile mills in opposition to the importers’ lawsuit.

“The government has every right to oppose [the briefs],” said Jonathan Fee, a customs and international trade lawyer in Washington. “My suspicion is that the government believes the issues are already satisfactorily briefed and consideration of the amicus positions would take more time.”

Fee also noted that interested parties should not be allowed to introduce their own evidence and concerns that aren’t at issue in the main case.

“To that extent, either party — the government or the USA-ITA — would have grounds to oppose them, because it confuses the issues,” Fee said.

The government argued in the motion to reject the briefs that the textile mills’ argument is “erroneous” and that the “evidence the mills attempt to introduce will only confuse the issues before the court.”

This story first appeared in the January 5, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The textile companies stated in their brief that they would “suffer irreparable harm, including jobs losses and plant closings, if the proposed injunctions are granted and CITA is not allowed to continue its investigation.” According to the government, the mills also stated they will “directly benefit from the current investigations” and will be irreparably injured by a temporary injunction due to a decline in the use of U.S. products as U.S. importers shift more business to China.

The government noted that CITA has not decided whether to impose quotas and it is therefore “impossible to predict the effect of CITA’s actions” and the textile mills’ premise is “erroneous.”

The government also asked the court to reject a brief filed by the U.S. Sock Manufacturers’ and Distributors’ Coalition. CITA imposed China safeguard quotas on socks last year — currently the only safeguard in place — and a group of sock manufacturers vigorously opposed the quotas. The group of sock companies support the USA-ITA suit and its request to remove the safeguard quotas on cotton socks that were imposed in October.

The government claimed the USSMDC brief “improperly seeks to bootstrap its own action challenging the substance of CITA’s decision to impose safeguards on socks.”

The third brief was filed by the American Import Shippers Association.