- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

U.S. manufacturers and workers yesterday petitioned the Bush administration to slow Chinese clothing from entering the market, part of a broader industry strategy to manage trade with the Asian nation.

Domestic clothing and fabric manufacturers in the United States have been shedding about 200 jobs a day this year, and they blame rapidly rising imports from China.

Yesterday’s move was a quick follow-up to Bush administration announcement Monday that it would investigate, and potentially cap, a flood of cotton shirts, cotton trousers and cotton and synthetic underwear coming from China.

Industry and union officials are looking for additional caps on imports of synthetic-fabric shirts, synthetic-fabric sweaters, brassieres, synthetic-fabric dressing gowns, synthetic-filament fabric, synthetic-fabric knit shirts and synthetic-fabric trousers.

“This is not going to be the final set of filings that we as an industry undertake. We are viewing this as a long-term battle,” said Augustine D. Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), an industry group.

China has rejected restraints and said the Bush administration and U.S. industry were trying to blame trading partners for their own lack of competitiveness, the Associated Press reported.

“This is not reasonable. This is unfair. This is protectionist,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday in Beijing.

The Bush administration investigation and the industry petitions would, if successful, cap imports at 7.5 percent growth. Roughly three or four months are expected to pass before the administration rules on the industry petitions, and the protection would only last until the end of the year, when manufacturers would have to seek new barriers.

The industry petitions would cover about $1.45 billion in imports, only 8 percent of the clothing and fabric China sent to the United States in 2004.

Mr. Tantillo acknowledged that the multiple petitions would not solve the industry’s problems, but said the actions are part of a strategy to reimpose some kind of trade limits.

“We will keep filing petitions until the United States and China reach and a comprehensive agreement to moderate the growth of Chinese textile and apparel imports to a reasonable level,” he said.

Some of China’s clothing exports have surged since a global quota system was discontinued Dec. 31, though overall clothing imports are up only 7 percent.

The decades-old quotas on clothing limited exports to the United States, Europe and other rich countries to protect their domestic manufacturers. The wealthy nations agreed to start phasing out the quotas in 1994 to help fledgling industries in poorer nations.

The United States and Europe anticipated the potential market disruption and demanded the system of emergency quotas before allowing China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001.

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