By  on January 7, 2005

WASHINGTON — Two top Commerce Department officials are headed to China next week for a series of meetings on the textile trade and intellectual property rights violations.

According to a Commerce spokeswoman, Grant Aldonas, undersecretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, will join Commerce Secretary Donald Evans in meetings with officials from China’s Ministry of Commerce, as well as industry executives.

The trip’s focus will be a forum on intellectual property rights in Beijing on Jan. 13. But, the spokeswoman added, “textiles are always a topic of conversation in China and there is no reason to doubt it will be on the agenda in China.”

A U.S. trade official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “All parties, both the Chinese and the U.S. governments and all sides on the private sector, from the retailers down to the cotton guys have an interest in the U.S. and the Chinese government having a healthy dialogue.”

Asked whether the U.S. would push for a more comprehensive quota agreement with China, the trade official said: “We're committed to utilizing the safeguard when warranted but from our end we can't control what the Chinese do. That’s the tool we have.”

Most industry executives expect the Chinese to discuss the decision to impose duties on their own exports, ranging from 2.4 cents to 3.6 cents per piece or per set of clothing, and 6 cents per kilogram for parts or accessories. Among the targeted export categories are T-shirts, underwear, nightwear, robes, outerwear, trousers, blouses and tracksuits.

David Spooner, special textile negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and Jim Leonard, deputy assistant secretary of apparel and textiles, are also expected to participate in the meetings.

The trip comes at a time when China safeguard petitions have become the focal point of a federal lawsuit, the outcome of which will likely have a significant impact on the U.S. textile and apparel industries as well as importers.

A federal district court judge with the U.S. Court of International Trade recently issued a preliminary injunction barring the Bush administration from accepting new China safeguard petitions or from reviewing pending petitions based on the threat of market disruption.

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