By  on March 10, 2005

WASHINGTON — U.S. textile producers, poised to file China safeguard petitions based on actual market disruption using current import figures, are pushing the Bush administration this week to self-initiate China safeguard cases.

A coalition of trade associations, including the National Council of Textile Organizations, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition and the National Textile Association, along with the UNITE HERE union, filed 12 petitions based on the threat of market disruption in October targeting $1.9 billion in Chinese imports for further quota restraints. The coalition sought to preempt what it asserted would be surges in imports in the U.S. once quotas were lifted on Jan. 1.

However, those petitions and the government’s review process have been caught up in a legal tug-of-war and suspended by a preliminary injunction for the past two months.

The coalition, in light of one private firm’s Chinese export data, expects the U.S. Department of Commerce’s January import report on Friday to reveal rises in key apparel categories. The statistics indicate apparel exports to the U.S. in the targeted safeguard categories grew exponentially last month.

“We need the government to self-initiate,” said Cass Johnson, president of the NCTO, which published information this week compiled by Global Trade Information Services, a Columbia, S.C.-based firm that collects trade statistics from 68 countries under contract. “If the numbers coming out are as huge as China’s export figures are indicating, a four-month-long safeguard process is going to be too late.”

Johnson stressed the coalition would give the Bush administration a week to self-initiate, and if it doesn’t take action, the coalition would file another round of safeguard petitions, based on actual market disruption, seeking to impose fresh quotas on Chinese imports.

The report shows Chinese exports of cotton knit shirts to the U.S. rose 1,836 percent to 18.2 million units in January, while shipments of cotton trousers increased 1,332 percent to 26.6 million units.

Don Brasher, president of Global Trade, said the export apparel increases from China would not be fully reflected in Friday’s U.S. import statistics because of the lag time — goods shipped from China versus goods entering U.S. ports.

“January’s numbers will reflect goods shipped in November and December, and China was still restrained under quota at that time,” Brasher said. “We won’t have a new trade pattern until we get February data.”

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