HONDURAS UNDERWEAR QUOTA ON BACK BURNER
Byline: Jim Ostroff
WASHINGTON — The U.S. attempt to limit underwear imports from Honduras has taken another curious turn.
Although import limits were set in negotiations in the fall, the U.S.’s Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements in a new notice to the Customs Service has dropped all restraints on these imports — at least for the time being.
The new notice canceled a November directive in which CITA established a 10.07 million dozen quota for cotton and man-made fiber underwear from Honduras, underwear that could be made of fabric formed and cut anywhere. That directive attracted more than the usual attention because it failed to mention an additional 50 million dozen in special quota requiring the use of U.S.-made and U.S.-cut fabric. The two nations had agreed to this additional quota, known as Guaranteed Access Levels (GALs), in the fall negotiations.
Interested observers — as well as executives with Sara Lee Corp. and Fruit of the Loom, the two largest U.S. users of underwear sourcing in Honduras — interpreted the failure to mention the GALs as an oversight and expressed confidence that it would be corrected.
CITA officials said no GALs were granted because there was no visa arrangement with Honduras set up yet for these imports, though they didn’t explain why this routine arrangement was delayed.
The latest CITA directive orders Customs only to monitor and count imports from Honduras in the underwear categories, 352/652, as well as women’s wool coats, category 435, which would be eligible for regular quota and GALs. The count was to begin Monday, Jan. 1.
A Customs directive to all its port directors further noted that “complete and accurate reporting of merchandise in the above categories is required inasmuch as the merchandise may later be charged against levels of restraint.”
CITA would need to issue a new Federal Register notice, setting these quotas, both regular and GALs — and implementing the U.S.-Honduras agreement — before new restraint levels could be put in place.
CITA officials could not be reached for comment on this latest development.
Meanwhile, as reported, an attempt to limit underwear imports from Costa Rica has hit other hurdles. After several rounds of fruitless talks and an inconclusive decision by the World Trade Organization’s Textiles Monitoring Body, Costa Rice now is appealing to the full WTO to help settle the dispute over these U.S. quota sanctions. These were set unilaterally at 14.4 million dozen. — Fairchild News Service