U.S., Vietnam Deadline Friday

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is poised to impose quotas unilaterally on 41 apparel and textile categories from Vietnam and embargo swimwear imports as early as Friday if an agreement is not reached today.<br><br>In an advance copy of a government notice...

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is poised to impose quotas unilaterally on 41 apparel and textile categories from Vietnam and embargo swimwear imports as early as Friday if an agreement is not reached today.

This story first appeared in the April 24, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In an advance copy of a government notice obtained by WWD, the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements said it would impose the quotas retroactively to Jan. 1 and immediately embargo imports of Vietnamese swimsuits, which already surpassed the proposed quota limits in the first two months of the year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Vietnam failed to sign a bilateral trade agreement Wednesday, despite having reached a tentative deal a week ago, said sources.

The U.S. is keeping its options open in filing the Federal Register’s notice, which is slated to run in the publication Friday, in anticipation that an agreement might not be reached today.

To pull the notice before it is published, the agency must make the request by noon today, according to a spokeswoman at the Federal Register’s office.

Vietnam would be hit a lot harder by the unilateral quotas than by a bilateral agreement.

The quotas are based on Vietnamese imports for the year ended November, which are a lot lower than levels in the bilateral proposed agreement. It was based on imports for the year ended February.

In addition, the unilateral quotas would be retroactive to Jan. 1, so apparel and textiles from Vietnam shipped from Jan. 1 through April 24 would be charged against the limits.

The proposed bilateral agreement would not impose quotas until May, according to sources.

Luggage and man-made fiber coats, which would not be subject to quotas in the proposed bilateral agreement, according to industry sources, would be subject to quotas if unilateral quotas are imposed.

The U.S. would set the quota limit for luggage at 4.3 million kilograms and the limit for man-made fiber coats at 991,745 dozen, according to CITA’s advance notice. Those limits also would be reduced by four months’ worth of imports.

The domestic textile industry and retail and import communities are anxiously awaiting an outcome to the tense negotiations.

The talks have taken many twists. Most recently, the news that the U.S. is investigating charges of illegal transshipments through Vietnam has thrown a wrench into the talks.

“I would prefer to see these unilaterals in place if for no other reason than to give our government time to do a thorough circumvention analysis to see what the degree of fraud is regarding these categories,” said Augustine Tantillo, Washington coordinator at the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “That’s the best scenario at this point.”

Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, criticized the way U.S. negotiators have handled the talks.

“We think it’s outrageous that while the Vietnamese are waiting to sign an agreement, CITA goes ahead and sends a notice that would immediately embargo one category and cut back others overnight,” said Hughes. “Our companies remain concerned that CITA seems to be abrogating what had already been set in place with quotas scheduled to begin in just one week.”

A spokesman at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said he had “no news” on the status of the negotiations or the notice to impose unilaterals.