WASHINGTON — Textile executives meeting in South Carolina Wednesday said the keeping of quotas on Chinese textile and apparel is a must-have in deciding which Congressional and presidential candidates they’ll back in the November election.

This story first appeared in the January 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The textile industry has long accused China of undercutting global competition through government subsidies, currency manipulation, no-interest loans and other unfair practices. Limiting Chinese imports after Jan. 1 is now the textile industry’s litmus test for U.S. candidates.

“Our workers want their government to stand up for them and they will be looking to support only those candidates who will start saving U.S. manufacturing jobs, not backing policies which send them overseas,” Jim Chesnutt, chairman of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and chief executive officer of National Spinning in Washington, N.C., said in a statement.

A coalition of about two dozen textile executives went to Spartanburg, S.C. to form their election-year strategy before the Tuesday Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina. In a statement from the event, the group declared: “Coalition vows to politicize every textile worker in the country.”

There are 722,000 U.S. textile and apparel workers, down 323,000 since the last presidential election. Chinese import volume in these goods has jumped 320 percent in two years, as U.S. quotas on key categories have been phased out in advance of dropping all limits in 2005.

“This industry is prepared to work hard on behalf of any candidate that makes an ironclad commitment on maintaining quotas on imports from China,” said Allen Gant, president of Glen Raven Inc., based in Glen Raven, S.C. “We are also prepared to work hard against any candidate that will not defend our workers against these illegally subsidized imports. This industry is determined that we will make a difference in the 2004 election.”