WASHINGTON — A unified textile industry challenged the Bush administration Wednesday to act aggressively on invoking a special textile and apparel safeguard action against China, claiming it is a “litmus test” of the administration’s commitments to the industry.

The leaders of six textile and fiber trade and lobby groups held a summit in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday to solidify a unified lobbying strategy on issues critical to the survival of their industry.

“We met in one room to speak with one unanimous voice on the most tenacious problem in front of us: China,” said Allen Gant, chief executive officer of Glen Raven Mills and second vice chairman of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. “China’s incredible growth of imports to the U.S. has displaced tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. textile and apparel industries.”

In 12 months, apparel and textile imports from China have soared 140 percent, while textile employment fell dramatically by 40,000 and 50 textile mills closed, according to the textile coalition. The Bush administration has vowed to minimize the impact of future trade deals on the textile industry.

The associations are working on petitions seeking to reimpose several quotas that were lifted on imports of apparel and textiles from China as part a 10-year phaseout set to expire on Dec. 31, 2004. Under terms of China’s World Trade Organization membership agreement, countries can impose category-specific limits for up to one year if Chinese imports are causing market disruption. Quotas can be reapplied on each category for another two years with government approval.

“There is an incredibly grave crisis affecting the U.S. textile industry, but that’s not unique,” said Roger Milliken, ceo of Milliken & Co. “The entire U.S. manufacturing sector is in dire straits due to misguided trade policies.”

The coalition of textile groups, including ATMI, the American Fiber Manufacturers Association, the American Yarn Spinners Association, the National Cotton Council, the National Textile Association and the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, has not yet budgeted money for the campaign, and members did not disclose how much they will need to fund it.

These textile groups, often divided in the past, have found common ground on another issue, as well. They plan to coordinate a lobbying effort against the inclusion of the use of fabric and yarns from third-country parties in the ongoing Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

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