Sun, May 15, 2005 - Page 11 News List

China protests US' new textiles quotas

OWN INTERESTS The US has imposed import quotas on a variety of Chinese textiles, in a move Beijing slammed as smacking of managed trade and a blow to the WTO


Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi (吳儀) urged the US to solve a growing textile dispute through consultations and urged Washington not to let politics interfere with trade, state press reported yesterday.

Wu met with US ambassador to China Clark Randt on Friday as Washington ordered import quotas on a flood of Chinese textiles in an effort to stymie growing political pressure over the loss of US jobs because of the imports.

Economic and trade problems should be "properly solved through consultation with the principle of equality, mutual-benefit and development," Wu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying in talks.

"We also should avoid mixing economic and trade problems with politics," he said.

China strongly denounced the implementation of the import quotas when the US announced its intentions six weeks ago, saying the move smacked of managed trade and would be a blow to World Trade Organization (WTO) efforts to further liberalize global trade.

Beijing has also said the move did not conform to WTO rules.

Meanwhile, US textile and clothing manufacturers are praising the administration of President George W. Bush for re-imposing quotas on Chinese-made cotton trousers, cotton knit shirts and underwear, saying the quick action was needed to save thousands of American jobs.

But retailers are complaining that the new limits on Chinese imports and more that are expected to be imposed on other clothing categories will simply mean higher prices for US consumers.

The administration announced late on Friday that it was re-imposing quotas in the three clothing categories, where it had launched its own investigations in early April.

The domestic industry has been urging quick action, saying 18 textile plants have already been forced to close this year and 16,600 textile and apparel jobs have been lost following the removal of a three-decade-old system of global quotas that had limited how much China and other countries could ship to the US and other rich nations.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in announcing the decision that the government had found that the surge in shipments from China since Jan. 1 was disrupting the domestic market. The decision was made by an interagency panel, the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, chaired by the Commerce Department.

Gutierrez said the action "demonstrates this administration's commitment to leveling the playing field for US industry by enforcing our trade agreements."

Under the terms of China's membership in the WTO, the US and other countries have the right re-impose quotas in categories of clothing and textiles where a surge in imports disrupts the domestic industry. Those quotas, limiting imports to an annual increase of 7.5 percent, can be renewed through 2008.

US retailers had fought against the re-imposition of quotas on China, arguing that it will mean higher costs for American consumers.

"Clearly, the government did not consider the facts," said Laura Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, noting that the public comment period had only ended last Monday.

"To make a decision affecting billions of dollars in business less than four days after a public comment period closes only shows how little regard there is for our business," she said.

In its announcement, the administration said four other petitions the industry filed last year seeking re-imposition of quotas in other clothing categories could be acted upon soon because the public comment period has now ended in those cases.

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