WASHINGTON -- The line for apparel and textile relief is about to get longer.
Turkey's prime minister, trade minister and a delegation of business owners plan to meet with U.S. officials next week to explore initiating discussions on a free-trade agreement or a preferential trade pact. As part of any agreement, Turkey would like the U.S. to reduce tariffs on a number of products, including textiles and apparel.
U.S. duties on apparel and textile imports from Turkey range from 15 to 32 percent, Oguz Satici, director of the Turkish Exporters Association, told WWD.
For the year ending Oct. 31, the U.S. imported 863 million square meter equivalents in apparel and textiles with a value of $1.5 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Among the leading apparel and textile categories Turkey exports to the U.S. are cotton trousers, curtains, man-made fiber home furnishings and textile bags.
The U.S. placed embargoes on three of Turkey's categories last year, including cotton dressing gowns, cotton sheets and women's wool trousers when their quota was filled.
Turkey is a member of a customs union with the European Union and therefore has lowered its duties for U.S. imports. Turkish officials would like reciprocity from the U.S.
Turkey's ambassador to the U.S., Faruk Logoglu, told WWD that he is not "overly optimistic" about gaining significant trade concessions immediately from the U.S. He said, "We understand the [U.S.] textile lobby and we know that the industry is in trouble."
Charles Bremer, director of international trade at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said, "When they say preferential trade agreement, they mean one way, from there to here."
For the first 10 months of 2001, the U.S. exported $20.3 million in textiles and apparel to Turkey.
Turkey will have to get in line behind Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have used their apparel and textile industries as bargaining chips in the war against terrorism. Pakistan, which exports $1.9 billion in apparel and textiles to the U.S., made the first overtures when it requested a temporary suspension on duties and apparel and textile quotas until the end of 2004. To date, the Bush Administration has extended some modest concessions, but benefits fall far short of what Pakistan is seeking.Bangladesh met with key administration and trade officials in November, seeking quota-elimination and duty-free treatment on textiles and apparel exports.
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