By  on September 2, 2005

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration tightened restrictions on $556.4 million in Chinese imports as negotiators failed to reach a broad import agreement at their fourth round of talks in Beijing.

Bras and synthetic filament fabric now join seven other types of Chinese goods restricted in the U.S. market by safeguard quotas, which hold imports to 7.5 percent growth for the rest of this year and can be renewed through 2008. In all, the U.S. is restricting $1.9 billion in Chinese imports with safeguards.

Hope is not lost for the long-sought-after deal, which would replace safeguards and would bring more clarity to the sourcing scene by mapping out the scope of imports. The U.S. has pushed for a deal that would hold a broad range of categories to low growth through 2008, while China wants higher growth rates on a narrower group of goods through 2007.

The two sides plan to meet again, though a date has not been set, and the Bush administration pushed back decisions on four safeguard cases until Oct. 1.

"While we are pleased that the U.S. government approved two [safeguard] cases, we are disappointed that the U.S. government delayed decisions on some of the other cases," said National Textile Association president Karl Spilhaus, in a statement. "People are hurting and need safeguards."

The lack of an agreement is expected to make apparel and textile trade a key issue at a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Bush at the White House on Wednesday.

"There's no question that it will be on the agenda and my guess is that it will be the Chinese putting it on the agenda," said a spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, which has strongly pushed for safeguards.

"Whatever happens out of this visit likely will have an impact on whether or not a deal ends up being done," he said. "You're seeing a bit of brinksmanship here by the Chinese."

Encouraged by a chorus of Congressional voices, the Bush administration has been pushing China on what it sees as a series of unfair trade advantages, including an undervalued yuan and weak enforcement of intellectual property rights.

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