WASHINGTON — U.S. and Chinese textile negotiators are slated to meet in Beijing for three days beginning Saturday with the aim of concluding a new bilateral textile trade pact, sources reported Monday.
Looming over the talks is a U.S.-imposed deadline to wrap up a new pact with strong transshipping safeguards by Jan. 17.
Should no agreement satisfactory to the U.S. be reached by that day, the U.S. would cut China’s import quotas on 73 apparel categories by 25 percent and by 35 percent on eight others. The cuts would not affect seven other apparel categories, basically silks.
Sources here said they anticipated that a diplomatic imbroglio, involving the rank of each side’s top negotiators, would be settled. The U.S. has insisted China assign a vice minister for trade to the talks, while China demanded that Charlene Barshefsky, a deputy USTR, represent the U.S., relegating Jennifer Hillman, the chief textile negotiator, to secondary status.
Sources reported that Hillman would lead the American contingent and face a Chinese official “of appropriate rank” across the table.
Hillman did not return telephone calls Monday, nor did Rita Hayes, a Commerce Department assistant secretary for textiles and chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements. It was confirmed that Hillman and Hayes are preparing to depart Washington on Wednesday to arrive in Beijing Friday morning local time. About one dozen industry advisers were to join the officials there.
Informed of the reports of the renewed textile talks, Robert Hall, a National Retail Federation vice president, said, “We remain hopeful an agreement can be reached because the absence of one serves no one well, particularly low-income consumers and the retailers who provide them with high quality, low-cost items produced in China.”