SEARCH FOR TEXTILE CHIEF DRAGS

Byline: Kristi Ellis

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is still without a chief textile negotiator and one might not be named for several weeks.
Among the names being considered are Kevin Koonce, the legislative assistant on trade for Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.) and Richard Chriss, a Republican international trade counsel on the Senate Finance Committee, according to industry sources.
Koonce declined to comment and Chriss could not be reached at press time.
The chief textile negotiator leads international trade negotiations and coordinates trade policy that affects the textile and apparel industries.
“We are moving along on the process,” said M.B. Oglesby, the USTR’s chief of staff, who would not disclose how close the USTR is to filling the post.
Among the various trade pacts being forged by the Bush administration this year is the Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, which will involve detailed negotiations with 34 participating countries.
Another key position still vacant is that of deputy assistant secretary at the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, an inter-agency group chaired by the Department of Commerce, which supervises the implementation of all textile and apparel trade pacts arranged by the chief textile negotiator.
CITA administers the phaseout of textile and apparel quotas on WTO countries. The chief textile negotiator, considered the highest ranking of the two, sits on the CITA board.
These positions will take center stage in the next four years as the U.S. phases out all quotas by Jan. 1, 2005, under the Uruguay Round agreement.
Despite the fact that the negotiator and CITA positions are still vacant three months into the Bush Administration, much of the textile and apparel industry is not in panic mode yet.
“Fortunately, no important trade negotiations are under way, so it is not as urgent,” said Charles Bremmer, director of international trade at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, which is officially supporting Koonce as chief textile negotiator, and Julie Fleming, currently ATMI’s own assistant director of government relations, as deputy assistant secretary of CITA.
Bremmer stressed the importance of filling the slot soon, noting three trade agreements — one each with China, Taiwan and Cambodia — will expire this year. In addition, further negotiations on the FTAA are expected to get under way this year.

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