Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — The Senate, after three months of delay, voted late Monday to confirm Rita Hayes, the chief U.S. textile negotiator, as the U.S. Textile Ambassador — but on the condition that Hayes testify again before a Senate committee.
The Senate, acting on a motion by Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.), the Majority Whip, took up the nomination via a unanimous consent procedure as the last order of business before it adjourned for the day. There was no voice vote taken. Since the textile ambassador position was created in the Seventies, the Senate has voted upon this nomination via unanimous consent.
However, the nomination “was approved subject to the nominee’s commitment to respond to requests to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of the Senate,” according to the Congressional Record. Senate officials said this was the first time they could recall that such a provision was attached to this nomination.
Hayes has served as chief U.S. textile negotiator, with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, since September. She had served as a deputy assistant Commerce secretary for textiles and apparel, as well as chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, from about May 1993 until September, when she moved to USTR.
The administration in late December sought to have Hayes confirmed by unanimous consent, but members of the importer-retailer community — angered that no hearings were held on the nomination as was usual — convinced a senator to place a hold on Hayes nomination. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held such a hearing in early March, although it had previously decided to recommend her confirmation, said Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.), the chairman.
Sources said Tuesday it is likely efforts will be made to have Hayes testify before the Senate Finance Committee later this year on textile trade matters.
Hayes said Tuesday she was pleased with the Senate confirmation.
“We have a heavy slate of trade issues before us in the next few months, and I look forward to representing the administration in working for the textile and apparel industry and importers and retailers,” she said.
She declined to comment on the testimony condition attached to the confirmation.
However, Laura Jones, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel’s executive director, said in a statement the hold placed on Hayes’ nomination “accomplished its objective: to insure the airing of… concerns before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
Jones added, “The administration now knows that the import community cares greatly about transparency in the CITA decision-making process. The issues are not going to go away, as evidenced by the fact that the administration has to commit to appear and testify before other Senate committees.”
The importer community has long accused CITA of making its decisions behind closed doors, through which domestic industry advisers are allowed to pass.
This was also reflected in the reaction of Robert Hall, vice president and international trade counsel, National Retail Federation.
“The retail industry congratulates Ms. Hayes, and we look forward to working with her on a number of issues important to American consumers,” said Hall. “We remain hopeful that she will give serious consideration to creating a more transparent textile and apparel trading system.”
The mood was more congratulatory among those representing domestic manufacturing interests. “She’s an excellent choice and the attacks levied against her have been unnecessary and absurd; she’s been very fair and probably will give the import community more than they deserve,” said Seth Bodner, executive director, National Knitwear and Sportswear Association.
Larry Martin, American Apparel Manufacturers Association president, said Hayes is “a very capable person who is very able to handle this job. It will be made easier now that she’s been given the title she deserves.”
James M. Fitzgibbons, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute’s president,, who also is chairman and chief executive officer, Fieldcrest Cannon, said in a statement that Hayes “has already proven herself to be a strong and able negotiator in recent tough bilateral negotiations.”

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