Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — With a battle again shaping up over two key issues for the domestic textile industry, two of the industry’s strongest congressional advocates have released a preemptive strike.
The two issues are the future of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements and the upcoming change in the rule of origin for apparel import quotas.
In March 1 letters to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D., Mo.), Reps. John Spratt (D., S.C.) and L.F. Payne (D., Va.), along with 34 House colleagues, said they would oppose any attempt to weaken the domestic textile program.
They suspect that efforts to eliminate CITA or move it to the International Trade Administration could be included in a bill that would temporarily fund the government, Spratt said in an interview. Because the Clinton administration and the Republican-led Congress have been unable to agree on a government spending plan for 1995, the government has been operating under stop-gap spending bills since Oct. 1. The latest one expires at midnight March 15 and the tug-of-war over including extraneous provisions in the bill, such as CITA and the rule of origin, is beginning.
The CITA issue or a delay in the effective date of the origin rule change also could be included in a bill to extend the government’s debt limit, which has to pass Congress by March 15 or the government could default on its loans because it would run out of cash.
“We strongly believe that it is inappropriate to conceal changes to the textile program in legislation that has nothing to do with the manner in which the program itself is constituted,” the letter said. “Such an effort would make it difficult for us to support a continuing resolution or a debt limit bill.”
CITA, which monitors textile and apparel imports into the U.S. to determine whether they are harming or threatening U.S. production and decides how to alleviate such threats, has long been a target of retailers and importers, who say it makes its decisions behind closed doors, with domestic industry representatives as advisers.
Retailers also have been putting extraordinary pressure on members of Congress to delay the rule of origin change, which is set to take effect July 1. Included in the GATT Uruguay Round implementing bill, the change would designate the country where apparel is sewn as the site of origin instead of the country where it is cut. Retailers say this change would seriously disrupt long-established sourcing patterns.
The Spratt-Payne letter went on to say that more textile workers are threatened with job loss as the MultiFiber Arrangement is phased out in the GATT Uruguay Round agreement. The current 10-year phaseout, which runs to the start of 2005, is being administered by CITA.
“The MFA phaseout would not be circumvented through quota manipulation by the establishment of a clear, fair rule of origin for foreign textile and apparel products,” the letter said. Many of those signing the letter are from districts heavily dependent on the textile industry. — Fairchild News Service

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