By  on July 12, 2005

WASHINGTON — Textile trade tensions between the U.S. and China went up another notch Monday.

On the same day that Chinese and U.S. trade diplomats worked toward a comprehensive agreement on textile and apparel imports, domestic producers ratcheted up the pressure on the Bush administration and called for new restrictions on $944 million worth of goods. Four safeguard petitions were filed Monday and one was filed last month to restrict import growth.

The plea from the U.S. textile industry, claiming to be drowning in a flood of Chinese apparel and textile imports, came Monday as a U.S. trade delegation including U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez wrapped up meetings with its Chinese counterparts in Beijing.

The two sides did not reach a broad agreement on textile and apparel imports, but consented to continue consultations. Domestic manufacturers and importers have been pushing for a trade agreement that would bring more certainty to the business climate than current safeguards.

"The two sides agreed to keep the channel of exchange open and continue consultations to find out an appropriate way to solve the textile and garment issue," said a statement on the Web site of China's Commerce Ministry.

China has urged the U.S. to ease restrictions on textile and apparel imports and cut a deal similar to the one it reached with the European Union, limiting 10 kinds of imports to 8 to 12.5 percent growth through the end of 2007.

In May, the U.S. invoked the safeguard provision China agreed to when it joined the World Trade Organization, holding $1.31 billion worth of imports in seven categories to 7.5 percent growth. There are six other petitions outstanding. The safeguards can be renewed through 2008 and more categories could be added at any time.

"The U.S. textile industry will keep filing petitions until the U.S. and China reach a comprehensive agreement to moderate the growth of Chinese textile and apparel imports to a reasonable level through the end of 2008," Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said in a statement on the new petitions.

AMTAC is part of the group that filed four new safeguard petitions Monday covering nonknit shirts, skirts, pajamas, nightwear and swimwear, all in cotton and man-made fiber. Last month, a petition was filed for cotton and man-made fiber curtains.

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