- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Bush administration yesterday said it would put up barriers to four clothing and textile product lines from China, adding to another set of quotas announced last week.

Chinese-made apparel and fabrics have flooded the U.S. market since a global quota system ended Dec. 31. The rise in imports has come largely at the expense of other foreign producers, but it also is undercutting prices to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates this administration’s continued commitment to America’s textile manufacturers and their employees,” said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

The administration said China’s exports of some cotton and synthetic-fiber shirts, synthetic-fiber trousers, and combed-cotton yarn are threatening to disrupt the U.S. market. With the action, the administration formally asks China for consultations and imposes a cap that limits imports to 7.5 percent growth.

The products cover less than 8 percent of the $4.77 billion in total U.S. textile and apparel imports from China, but add to a set of new quotas announced Friday.

“For the second time in a week, this administration has acted to save thousands of textile jobs that are at immediate risk from subsidized Chinese imports,” said Cass Johnson, president of National Council of Textile Organizations, an industry group.

From January through April, U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing employment has fallen by 16,600 jobs to 666,500.

Importers, though, said the measures would do little to protect American workers, and instead redirect business to other low-cost foreign producers.

“There is no merit to the charge that products of China create a threat of market disruption. The U.S. import data uniformly shows only that there are shifts among foreign suppliers to the U.S. market, and particularly shifts within Asia,” said Laura Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

USA-ITA had won a court injunction against the administration to stop it from considering several industry petitions, filed last year, that said China threatened the U.S. market. That injunction was overturned and the administration yesterday said U.S. manufacturers had made their case. More petitions are pending.

China has criticized the United States and European Union, also considering new quotas, as protectionist. The Asian nation yesterday said it is hypocritical for rich countries to demand that China open its market while they block exports from developing nations.

“Such activity is obviously in violation of the [World Trade Organization] principle of ‘free and fair trade,’” Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said yesterday in comments reported by the Associated Press.

China also has suggested it would consider internal steps, such as raising a tax on exports, to curb clothing exports.

The Bush administration has been under intense pressure from Congress and some domestic industries to get tougher with China.

In response, the administration’s trade policy toward China has taken a harder line in recent weeks, with the new barriers to textile and apparel imports, as well as pronouncements against the Asian country’s currency, illegal copying of U.S. products and designs, and other practices deemed unfair.

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