By  on July 31, 2007

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Vietnam's apparel manufacturers are looking to European and Asian markets because of U.S. monitoring to determine if some items made here are being dumped.

The U.S. is the biggest importer of Vietnamese goods and accounts for 55 percent of the share of textile and garment exports.

If dumping is proved "it would be a disaster, it could kill our industry," said Pham Gia Hung, chief of external affairs with the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association. "Companies are very panicked....The problem is psychological. U.S. buyers don't feel safe here."

Perry Ellis, Liz Claiborne, Guess, Macy's and J.C. Penney have shifted some production from Vietnam to China, Hung said.

The creation of the monitoring program was the outgrowth of a political bargain between the Bush administration and two textile-state senators, Elizabeth Dole (R., N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), last year to gain their support for permanent normal trade relations status for Vietnam, which became a member of the World Trade Organization in January.

U.S. textile producers fought for the monitoring and the possibility of the U.S. self-initiating antidumping cases because they fear being inundated by apparel imports from Vietnam now that quotas have been lifted. Dumping occurs when companies sell goods in another country below the cost of manufacturing or below market price in the country of origin.

In the first six months of the year, Vietnam textile and apparel exports totaled $3.4 billion, according to the Vietnam Textile & Apparel Association. That is 47 percent of the industry's 2007 export target of $7.35 billion and marks an annual growth rate of 25.9 percent. Vietnam's exports in 2006 totaled $39.6 billion, with the export category of crude oil leading the list, followed by textiles and apparel.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is collecting data on some Vietnamese imports of trousers, shirts, underwear, swimwear and sweaters under the monitoring program.

"If not for the unfair U.S. monitoring program, our export growth would have been 40 percent," said Diep Thanh Kiet, vice chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Garment & Textile, Embroidering and Weaving Association. Indonesia's textile and garment industry grew more than 50 percent in the first half of this year, and that of China's grew at more than 60 percent, he said. Neither country is subject to U.S. monitoring, although many categories of Chinese apparel and textile remain subject to quota through 2008.

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