WASHINGTON — An interagency U.S. government panel on Thursday agreed to consider requests to impose safeguard quotas on seven categories of imported Chinese textiles and apparel.
The decision by the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements was the second victory in as many days for domestic manufacturers, who argue that restrictions on China would stem the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
The safeguard measure, which China agreed to when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, allows one-year restrictions to be placed on categories of imported textiles and apparel that were freed of quotas on Jan. 1. The safeguard restrictions may be renewed through 2008.
For the next 30 days, CITA, which has officials from the departments of Commerce, Labor, Treasury and State and the U.S. Trade Representative, will accept public comment on the requests. It will then have 60 days to decide whether to impose the safeguards, which could take effect as soon as a decision is made.
The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the National Textile Association and the union UNITE HERE petitioned CITA to begin the safeguard review.
Missy Branson, senior vice president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said safeguards would help protect domestic producers, which have closed 18 plants and cut 17,000 jobs since quotas were eliminated.
“We obviously are looking for as expedited a time line as possible for government action,” she said.
The move came the day after a federal appeals court decided to lift an injunction holding up the review of other safeguard requests made last year based on the threat of market disruption.
Karl Spilhaus, president of the National Textile Association, said his group plans more petitions. But he acknowledged that safeguard quotas would provide limited relief to the ailing domestic textile industry.
“It’s not going to solve all our problems, but it’s going to buy some people some time to reposition themselves and so forth,” said Spilhaus.
Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade for the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said: “We’re disappointed they accepted all of the cases. There were several of the cases that we thought were not as strong.”
Among these are sweaters made of cotton or man-made fibers, which are already produced overseas for the most part and hence have little U.S. manufacturing base to disrupt.
“We support the safeguard provision and we think it should be used sparingly,” she said. “If the reason to do this is you’re worried about the job losses or the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, unfortunately we haven’t seen that these actions help the U.S. industry.”