WASHINGTON — U.S. textile lobbyists on Thursday denounced a World Trade Organization study on the elimination of textile and apparel quotas as inaccurate and incomplete, and expressed concern about the influence it could have over the debate within the global trade body.
The WTO report, the latest in a string of studies on the impact of global textile and apparel quota elimination set for Jan. 1, reiterated claims that China is poised to take over 50 percent or more of worldwide textile and apparel production. India was also cited as a big beneficiary.
However, in a departure from other such studies, the WTO report claimed Caribbean countries and Mexico are less likely to be affected by competition from China and India due to such competitive advantages as proximity to the U.S. and duty preferences under special trade regimes.
The 147 nations of the WTO are set to eliminate quotas on apparel and textiles on Jan. 1. As that date nears, several developing countries and a global coalition of 90 apparel and textile industry associations known as the Global Alliance for Fair Textile Trade have asked the WTO for a review of the issue.
The Global Alliance group has forecast that China will dominate global apparel and textile trade when quotas are eliminated, jeopardizing an estimated 30 million textile and apparel workers, including 700,000 in the U.S.
The government of Mauritius and the Global Alliance recently lost a bid for an emergency session of the WTO due to objections from India and China, and a lack of consensus to address the implications of the quota phaseout. However, the WTO’s director-general left the door open for further debate at a meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods on Oct. 1.
U.S. textile executives took aim at the WTO report Thursday, claiming it only represents half the story, does not address consequences and is based on trade data before 2002 — the year China became a WTO member.
Jock Nash, Washington counsel for Milliken & Co., said: “They are talking like a government in this report and not as a member-based organization whose primary goal is economic development. The WTO’s primary goal is not free trade.”Robert DuPree, vice president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said, “I hope this is viewed simply as one researcher’s or analyst’s view of the world. It’s an incomplete view at best.”
DuPree said he was surprised the WTO study did not take into account China’s huge increase in market share over the past two and a half years — from 9 percent to 65 percent — in 29 apparel categories removed from quota in 2002.
“My concern is somebody will use this as a rationale for not doing anything as so many countries and associations have requested,” DuPree said. “I would sincerely hope the delegates who attend the Oct. 1 meeting would raise questions like these and not accept at face value that all you need is proximity or preferences.”
Retail and wholesale importers, on the other hand, said the WTO study did not contain any surprises and dismissed the textile industry’s claims.
“I don’t think anyone disputes the claim that China is going to probably be the biggest producer of textiles and apparel in a post-quota world,” said Erik Autor, vice president and international trade counsel at the National Retail Federation. “Where there’s a lot of disagreement is how big they are going to be. I don’t think any study that has looked at this, whether it was the World Bank, International Trade Commission and now the WTO, supports the textile industry claim that China will garner 70 to 80 percent of the market.”
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