HOUSE PANEL TOLD U.S. ADDING TRADE BARRIERS

Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — A senior vice president of The Limited told the House Trade Subcommittee Wednesday that the U.S. has backtracked on liberalizing trade in apparel and textiles since the GATT Uruguay Round was implemented more than a year ago.
In a hearing called to gauge the success so far of the World Trade Organization, which was created in the last round of GATT negotiations, Jack Listanowsky, senior vice president for sourcing and production with the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer, said the U.S. has more restrictions on clothes than it did a year ago.
“That’s not progress,” he said. “We want open markets.”
Listanowsky criticized the 10-year phaseout of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement, a planned change in the rule of origin governing apparel and what he called the “secret administration of the U.S. textile program.” His was one of the few voices at the day-long hearing to criticize implementation of the WTO and its trade-liberalizing provisions.
Listanowsky said the MFN phaseout “does not happen for 10 years” instead of occurring gradually over a decade. The rule change that designates the country where apparel is sewn as the country of origin, set to take effect July 1, will disrupt sourcing because the administration has been slow in formulating the new rules and still has not decided how to handle multiple-country assembly situations, he said.
He called the Committee for Implementation of Textile Agreements a “secretive inter-agency committee,” and said “the secret administration of the U.S. textile program stands in stark contrast to what the U.S. government wants to see from its trading partners abroad.”
Rep. L.F. Payne (D., Va.), who represents apparel and textile makers favoring the rule change, pressed U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, who also testified, about the administration’s plans to implement it.
Kantor assured him that the administration was not creating any “loopholes” in the rule-of-origin change, and that it would be effective in July as planned.
Subcommittee chairman Phil Crane (R., Ill.), also criticized CITA and told Kantor that its 26 attempts to call for new quotas since the WTO was enacted appeared to be “an abuse of the textile agreement.”
Kantor defended the administration’s actions, however, and said the U.S. was within its rights to make sure other countries live up to their agreement in the MFA phaseout.
“We’re going to make sure that our textile and apparel industries remain competitive while we implement this agreement,” Kantor said. “I believe that textiles and apparel can compete if we have fair trading rules.”
Kantor also told the panel that the administration’s plan to broaden trade privileges to 24 Caribbean countries, similar to those given Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement, would extend the benefits for five years. The parity plan would also make the trade benefits conditional up a country’s actions on drug enforcement.
Kantor said that $3 billion has been set aside to cover the loss of tariff revenue in the parity plan. The parity plan will be included in the administration’s budget expected on Capitol Hill by the end of the month.
However, one Republican trade aide said that because of the administration’s conditions, the CBI plan was dead on arrival.

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