Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — A coalition of U.S. knitters has asked the Clinton administration to end certain preferences for Caribbean apparel production, claiming they are causing “massive job losses and damage to the credibility of the entire quota system.”
Led by the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association, the group wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in which it termed the 807(A) program “an employment-destroying monster” that has resulted in the closure of hundreds of American apparel factories. The program, begun in 1986, affords U.S. import duty breaks and unlimited quotas, called Guaranteed Access Levels (GALs), for apparel assembled in Caribbean Basin nations using fabric formed and cut in the U.S.
“GALs already in place or on the table are so large — 231 million dozen garments annually — as to deny effective quota protection on key [apparel] categories for domestic companies and workers fully eight years ahead of the phaseout required under the World Trade Organization,” the NKSA wrote, joined by the American Apparel Contractors Association, Atlantic Apparel Contractors Association, South East Apparel Manufacturers and Suppliers Association, and 61 individual firms.
The move pits these interests against two large organizations representing U.S. apparel and textile makers, the American Apparel Manufacturers Association and the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, both of which strongly support 807(A).
In its letter, the NKSA noted that 91,000 U.S. apparel jobs were lost last year largely due to GAL imports, which were up nearly 25 percent to 2 billion square meters equivalent in 1995.
“Ironically,” the letter continued, “America’s international credibility has also fallen victim to the GALs giveaway. Repeated international challenges of U.S. quota actions on non-GAL items have created a climate where U.S. explanations — of how imports of T-shirts made with foreign fabric hurt T-shirt companies and workers, but imports of T-shirts made with U.S. fabric do not — appear ridiculous. Because they are.”
The letter, dated March 13, also was sent to Troy Cribb, the Commerce Department’s top textile official and chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, and Rita Hayes, chief U.S. textile negotiator. Cribb and Hayes are out of the country and could not be reached for comment. It could not be learned whether Kantor had received the letter.

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