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.
The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel sued five government agencies at the beginning of December, seeking to halt further review and acceptance by the government of China safeguard petitions that seek new quotas on certain imports. A Justice Department spokesman said lawyers are still reviewing whether to file an appeal of the preliminary injunction.
In other trade developments, according to news reports U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is expected to be named deputy to Condoleeza Rice, whose confirmation hearing for Secretary of State is slated for Jan. 18. Zoellick has also been considered a potential successor to outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn.
According to sources, Zoellick’s possible successors include Aldonas, Gary Edson — most recently deputy national security and economic adviser — and Josette Shiner, deputy USTR and lead negotiator on trade issues for East Asia, South Asia and Africa.