Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials, in trade talks last week, offered to make some allowances in Turkey’s apparel quota by shifting amounts among categories, but rejected Turkish officials’ request to increase its overall quota baseline, according to a U.S. official.
Turkish officials asked to raise its quota in an amount equal to about $200 million wholesale, according to an official with ITKIB, the Turkey apparel association. The quota request — including the category of knit tops that fills quickly — was intended as a means to boost Turkey’s economy after the country’s massive earthquake last month.
Troy Cribb, chief and chairman of the U.S. Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, said Turkey was only offered quota flexibility among its apparel categories, but declined to specify. Cribb noted that Turkey has several apparel categories with quotas that go unfilled each year. “They have a lot of room to expand trade” without increasing the baseline, she said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said no new talks with Turkey have been scheduled, and Cribb noted that U.S. officials were still awaiting an official response from Turkey on its offer. President Clinton is scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit today. After the earthquake, U.S. officials pledged to offer a relief package to help in Turkey’s recovery.
Zia Sukun, executive director of ITKIB, could not be reached directly for comment, but relayed a message through a spokeswoman that the quota increase was sought “for humanitarian reasons.”
The request to increase Turkey’s quota was met with protests from U.S. textile interests. American Textile Manufacturers Institute officials said Turkey’s automatic 10 percent annual increase under the World Trade Organization phaseout of global apparel quota is ample. If an increase were granted, they feared other countries would expect similar treatment. Turkey last year shipped about $1 billion worth of apparel to the U.S.
Julie Hughes, vice president, international trade, U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said she’s surprised the U.S. didn’t increase Turkey’s quota baseline at least temporarily. “Turkey does have a large quota, but competitively speaking, there are many other countries that ship quota-free,” she said.