Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — Douglas Ellis, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, in a letter Friday to President Clinton warned that the administration’s initiatives to give Turkey’s garment makers more liberal access to the U.S. market was “ill-advised.”
Ellis’s letter was written in reaction to an announcement by Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright days earlier in Istanbul that the U.S. textile negotiators would meet here with their Turkish counterparts Sept. 20 to discuss that nation’s long-standing request for quota increases and more latitude to transfer unused quota from one product to another.
Albright made an inspection tour of earthquake-damaged Istanbul and referred to the upcoming textile talks as one initiative the Clinton administration was taking to help get Turkish industry back on its feet.
Zia Sukun, the New York executive director of the Turkish apparel makers organization ITKIB, last week[ said that long before the earthquake, Turkish makers had asked the U.S. to increase quotas for various “hot” items such as cotton and man-made fiber shirts and blouses, which he noted had nearly reached 100 percent quota fill rates by the end of August. Underwear and sheets also have reached high quota fill rates.
Sukun said Turkey had never sought across-the-board elimination of quotas, but was asking for special flexibility to shift quotas, beyond what it and other nations can use today.
U.S. textile negotiators previously had all but dismissed such requests, noting that World Trade Organization countries had agreed to abide by a 10-year quota elimination plan that began in 1995 and provided for annual, automatic increases in quotas during this period.
The ATMI’s Ellis, in his letter to Clinton, warned that “increasing the agreed restraints maintained under the [WTO’s] Agreement on Clothing, would establish a very bad precedent which will almost certainly be attacked by other countries whose exports are subject” to quotas. Ellis, president and chief executive officer of Southern Mills, Union City, Ga., noted that between last year and this one, the U.S. had denied quota increase requests from about two dozen nations, adding, “If the U.S. now relents in favor of Turkey, how can it deny other countries’ requests for similar treatment?”
Ellis said if the U.S. accedes to Turkey’s requests, “the whole matter will more than likely result in an official protest to the WTO by one or more of the countries whose requests were denied.”
Clinton was in New Zealand attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. White House spokesmen here had no comment on the ATMI letter.