By  on January 10, 1994

WASHINGTON -- The Chinese government registered a "strong protest" Friday against an "irresponsible" U.S. plan to curb textile quotas later this month, but said it planned to continue negotiations with the U.S. on an agreement to limit illicit apparel exports.

In a four-paragraph statement released by the Chinese Embassy here, China's Ministry of Foreign Economic Cooperation and Trade "solemnly declared that the Chinese side will continue the talks with the U.S. as scheduled in order to seek a solution to the problem through consultation."

The Ministry added, however, that if the "U.S. side is bent on having its own way on the bilateral textiles trade issue, China will have to take retaliatory measures correspondingly." It did not specify what kind of measures might be taken.

The U.S. has offered to meet with Chinese trade officials in Beijing on Jan. 15 and 16 to resolve the dispute, but no decision has yet been made. If the negotiators don't meet before the Jan. 17 deadline for a new bilateral pact, they aren't expected to meet until after Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen completes his visit to China Jan. 22. In a briefing with reporters, Bentsen said, "Hopefully, this can be worked out if they would come to the negotiating table."

The American Textile Manufacturers Institute had no formal response to the Chinese reaction. However a spokesman said the industry has supported a bilateral agreement with China all along, providing it addresses the transshipment problem. Importers and retail officials welcomed China's statement that it would pursue negotiations, but did not relent in their criticism of the U.S. action.

"The Chinese statement sends a message that the U.S. action went too far in trying to push a quick settlement," said Julie Hughes, division vice president for government relations at the Associated Merchandising Corp. and USA-ITA chairman.

Laura Jones, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel executive director, said she hoped for a "quick and speedy conclusion" to the bilateral. She added that the U.S. should take the transshipping issue out of the negotiations and let the Customs Service deal with it as an enforcement matter.

"I hope the administration realizes it can't cut quotas in a vacuum," Jones said. "They can't cut quotas and expect that nothing else in the U.S. will be touched by this. It may end up costing more jobs than saving jobs."

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