WASHINGTON — The coalition of textile and apparel industry groups seeking to curb imports from China filed a sixth safeguard petition on Friday covering imports of cotton and man-made fiber underwear, which were valued at $120.1 million last year.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, National Council of Textile Organizations, National Cotton Council, SEAMS, American Fiber Manufacturers Association and UNITE HERE are targeting some $1.96 billion in imports from China or continued quota restraints in an expected wave of 13 petitions covering 21 categories.

Cass Johnson, president of NCTO, said Central America and the Caribbean Basin have “built their region on [cotton] underwear,” using U.S. fabrics and cotton, which is another reason to restrain China, he argued. The top four cotton underwear suppliers to the U.S. market were El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica for the year to date through July. There is also still U.S. production of those types of underwear, although the government’s production data does not break it out from a group that includes bras and dressing gowns.

Although China only controls a 0.93 percent share of U.S. imports of cotton underwear — a point importers raise about many of the petitions — Johnson said China has demonstrated how quickly it can move from a small supplier in a category to domination. Johnson pointed to silk and noncotton vegetable fiber nightwear and pajamas imports from China, which stood at a 1 percent share of the U.S. market before quotas were removed in 2002 and now stands at 72 percent.

China has a much larger share of the man-made fiber U.S. import market at 7.84 percent.

The interagency Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements has 15 business days to review the petition and determine whether it meets the merits for a full review.

— K.E.

This story first appeared in the October 18, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.