By  on November 17, 2004

WASHINGTON — A coalition of apparel and textile groups bracing for the end of the quota system next year has made a formal request for the Bush administration to go after surging imports from Vietnam.

The group wants the U.S. to impose quotas on seven additional apparel and textile import categories with a combined value of $527.8 million.

In a letter to Jim Leonard, deputy assistant secretary of apparel and textiles at the U.S. Department of Commerce, a copy of which was obtained by WWD, five national associations and three state associations are imploring the government to impose quotas on cotton and man-made fiber dressing gowns, cotton terry towels, men’s and boys’ wool suits, lightweight polyester filament yarn fabric and men’s and women’s man-made fiber coats from Vietnam.

The U.S. implemented a bilateral textile agreement with Vietnam in May 2003, imposing 25 quota limits covering 38 apparel and textile products and allowing categories to increase 7 percent annually for cotton and man-made fiber products and 2 percent annually for wool.

Vietnam is not a member of the World Trade Organization and will be one of a handful of countries remaining under quota until it joins the global trade body.

“We are simply seeking to ask the government to use the safeguard mechanism in the Vietnamese bilateral agreement because they are growing considerably in these categories and they are contributing to the disruption that exists within the U.S. industry,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, one of the associations making the request.

The associations have asked the U.S. to invoke a consultation mechanism in the bilateral agreement to establish import controls. If the U.S. determines the imports from Vietnam are causing market disruption, it will request consultations with the Vietnamese to negotiate limits for the categories and impose a 7.5 percent growth cap on cotton and man-made fiber imports and a 6 percent growth cap on wool products.

A separate coalition has filed nine China safeguard petitions seeking to extend quota restraints on certain apparel and textile categories next year and the Bush administration has thus far accepted six for a full review.

In this latest quota chapter, AMTAC, the National Council of Textile Organizations, National Cotton Council, National Textile Machinery Association, and the North Carolina Manufacturers Association, South Carolina Manufacturers Association and Georgia Textile Manufacturers Association claim Vietnam needs to be restrained.While total textile and apparel imports from Vietnam fell for the year ended Aug. 31 to 804 million square meters equivalent, primarily due to a decrease in quota categories, imports not controlled by quotas surged, the groups stated.

Vietnam was the 15th-largest supplier of apparel and textiles to the U.S. with a 1.8 percent share of total U.S. imports, based on August data.

Imports of cotton and man-made fiber dressing gowns from Vietnam rose 99 percent for the year ended Aug. 30, while imports of polyester filament yarn fabric skyrocketed 650 percent and imports of man-made fiber coats rose 111 percent.

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