WASHINGTON — A broad agreement regulating U.S. apparel imports from China appeared closer late Wednesday as the two countries worked to hammer out a deal.
The head U.S. negotiator, David Spooner, said in a conference call with reporters from the talks in San Francisco that if the final session on Tuesday didn't lead to an agreement, the two sides would likely be back at the bargaining table later this month, probably in China.
One of the stickier details to be worked out was how much growth an accord would allow, though Spooner said whatever percentage is ultimately agreed on would be based on a recent 12-month period.
"We're both in the same ballpark, the talks are going well," said Spooner, who is special textile negotiator with the U.S. Trade Representative's office. "We will set up a future meeting today if we do not come to an agreement. I expect it will happen very quickly. There's a desire on both of our parts to move fairly quickly to closure."
All of the parties that would be effected — from U.S. textile firms and importers to retailers and Chinese producers — have pushed for a pact that would bring an end to the uncertainty of the current regimen of safeguard quotas.
The Bush administration imposed safeguards on $1.31 billion in Chinese imports in May to protect domestic firms from import increases in excess of 1,000 percent for some goods. Products in most of the categories under safeguard have been embargoed until next year.
The floodgates were opened when the countries of the World Trade Organization dropped the system of quotas that regulated global trade in January. But China's entry agreement into the WTO allowed for the safeguards. Apparel and textile imports from China shot up 46.6 percent to 7.9 billion square meter equivalents, or $10.8 billion worth, during the first half.
The Bush administration deferred a final decision on six outstanding safeguard petitions until Aug. 31. Safeguards restrict goods to annual growth of 7.5 percent and can be renewed through 2008. Domestic textile concerns are pushing for an agreement that allows for limited growth over a broad range of goods, while importers and retailers are looking for higher growth levels.The U.S. made an initial proposal on Tuesday and China countered Wednesday morning, but Spooner declined to offer specifics.
"Our entire private sector, from cotton growers up through retailers and importers, want an agreement to last through 2008," Spooner said.
China and the European Union reached a deal in June that allowed for 8 to 12.5 percent growth on 10 import categories through 2007.
One point that was to be worked out is whether categories embargoed under safeguards would be reopened this year, bringing more goods into the market and freeing up previous shipments that didn't make it into the country in time and are stuck in bonded warehouses.
"There are concerns about what the impact of embargoes will be on retailer's ability to stock their shelves," Spooner said.
Textile and import trade groups were keeping close tabs on the negotiations at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.
"We continue to be positive about the outcome," said Jim Chesnutt, president and chief executive officer of National Spinning Co. and chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations.
Chesnutt stressed the need for a broad agreement that is flexible enough to include categories of goods that might see future disruption and those now under safeguards.
"We want everything that has now been approved and or submitted wrapped up in a bilateral agreement that will specify where we need to be between now and the end of 2008," Chesnutt said.
The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition said it would rather stay with the existing system if an acceptable deal can't be reached.
"No deal is better than a bad deal," executive director Auggie Tantillo said in a statement. "Whether we will be able to support any final agreement will depend on what's in the fine print both on categories covered and growth limitations."
Spooner stressed the importance of not rushing a deal.
"The tenor of our discussions has been very good," he said. "Both sides are eager to solve this problem, but both sides also say they'd rather take a little bit longer to get a good deal than reach a bad deal."Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to meet with President Bush next month and both sides would like to have an accord wrapped up by then.
The negotiations make up part of what has been an often tense trans-Pacific relationship in which there also has been friction on currency policies, enforcement of intellectual property laws and in foreign policy.
Some of the pressure was eased last month when China allowed its currency, the yuan, to appreciate slightly against the dollar and pegged it to a so-called market basket of currencies.
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)