US Slaps Quotas on Textiles
The United States late on Friday re-imposed quotas to curb a flood of Chinese textile imports, a move likely to sharply escalate trade tensions with the Asian giant.
Under pressure to preserve thousands of jobs, the US government's Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) said it was re-imposing a quota on three categories of Chinese textiles.
"Today's action by CITA demonstrates this administration's commitment to levelling the playing field for US industry by enforcing our trade agreements," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement.
"We will consult with the Chinese to find a solution that will permit the orderly development of trade in a quota-free environment," he said.
The quota will be imposed regardless of a solution by the end of May, and will last at least for the rest of this year if the consultations do not resolve the matter.
The three categories of Chinese textiles are cotton knit shirts and blouses, cotton trousers, and cotton- and man-made fibre underwear.
The action comes just six weeks after the US government launched a probe into the main categories of Chinese textile goods that have surged since the 31-year-old global quota system ended.
The US investigation has coincided with a parallel probe by the European Union into nine categories of Chinese textile imports which may lead to restrictions being enforced.
Higher costs for consumers
AP reports US retailers had fought against the re-imposition of quotas on China, arguing that it will mean higher costs for American consumers.
But domestic textile and clothing makers argued that they faced the prospect of losing thousands of jobs unless something was done to stem the flow of products from China.
"The fast action to re-impose quotas by the Bush administration today has saved thousands of textile jobs in this country and we are extremely grateful," said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organisations (NCTO).
According to the commerce department, Chinese imports of underwear have gone up 366 percent since January 1, cotton-knit shirts have increased 1 350 percent and cotton trousers by more than 1 500 percent.
The NCTO argues, that the deluge has cost 16 600 US textiles jobs with the closure of no fewer than 18 plants since the start of the year.
A commerce department official said that the quota was set at 107.5 percent of total shipments of the Chinese textile categories, as calculated over 12 of the past 14 months.
Any shipment amount that goes over that ceiling will be blocked at customs, she said.
Regularly updated trade statistics on AGOA.info include (Click to follow the links):