ATMI: WTO A “FAILURE”

Byline: Scott Malone

HAMILTON, Bermuda — The American Textile Manufacturers Institute is alleging that the creation of the World Trade Organization has not helped to open international markets for U.S. mills, in a study released Friday at the organization’s annual meeting here.
ATMI called the WTO “a costly failure.”
Roger Chastain, who on Saturday was named ATMI president, alleged that five years after the adoption of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, U.S. producers only have access to 22 of 26 major textile exporting nations that are members of the WTO. The other four countries the U.S. had access to prior to the signing of the agreement, he noted.
Carlos Moore, ATMI executive vice president, said that while the U.S. has increased its textile imports 35 percent since 1995, the U.S. government has not insured that other WTO participants have liberalized their trade laws.
He said that the Clinton administration has not taken any actions to make sure that other nations open their markets to U.S. textiles.
“It is time for our government to take the steps it said it would,” he said. “Those include revoking duty-free status under the Generalized System of Preferences and withdrawing textile and apparel quota increases to those countries that are blocking access to their markets.”
“That should be the U.S. goal, to give greater access to U.S. textiles and apparel,” he said, “not to trade that for access to other sectors of the economy.”
Chastain added, “We need to place some blame right where it belongs and that is on our administration.”
The study, titled “Promises Unkept: A Report on Market Access for U.S. Textile and Apparel Products Five Years into the WTO,” ranks 26 WTO-member nations as well as China on their level of market openness. The report excludes Caribbean nations, Mexico and Canada because of special trade agreements the U.S. has with them, and treats the European Union as a single entity.
It rates 12 markets as closed: Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Mauritius, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam.
It rates five markets as mostly closed: Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Romania and South Korea.
Rated somewhat open are Australia, Colombia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.
Rated mostly open are Chile, Japan and Taiwan.
Only the European Union was given an open rating.
The study says that many WTO members have used a variety of legal tariff and non-tariff barriers to keep their markets closed.
For example, after the WTO ruled that Argentina’s imposition in the mid-Nineties of a 3 percent “statistical tax” was illegal, that nation dropped its tax to 0.5 percent and then imposed a 3 percent across-the-board increase in duties.
The study also said that since 1995, Brazil has lowered the U.S. imports by measures including suspending the use of letters of credit and adopting complicated licensing requirements.
The study was performed in-house by the ATMI staff, Moore said. He added that the organization is sending copies of the 43-page report to members of Congress and the administration.

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