It’s six down and one to go for the seven China threat-based textile safeguard petitions filed by the U.S. textile industry with the U.S. government’s Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements last month.

CITA announced on Nov. 3 that it has accepted five more safeguard petitions filed by a coalition of textile and apparel manufacturers and the labor union UNITEHERE. The latest petitions include the categories of man-made fiber trousers, cotton shirts, man-made fiber shirts, non-knit shirts and underwear.

The committee, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, had previously accepted a petition for men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ cotton trousers. The petitions are aimed at slowing down the rising tide of Chinese textile imports into the United States.

“We are very pleased that the U.S. government accepted these petitions for consideration,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.

“The industry conducted a painstaking amount of research in preparation for filing these cases. They are extremely strong, and we are confident that the facts we have laid out will lead to a positive decision on the merits early next year.”

Acceptance of the petitions triggers a 90-day review period, consisting of a 30-day public comment period followed by a 60-day decision-making window for the Commerce Department.

Textile manufacturing leaders have said that Chinese textile shipments to the United States, which have already risen as much as 800 percent in some categories since 2001, could literally explode when worldwide textile quotas are removed Jan. 1.

“The six petitions now accepted are where the rubber meets the road in determining whether the textile industries in the United States, the Western Hemisphere and the rest of the developing world will be given a fair chance to compete once quotas are removed,” said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations.

“As the quota phase-out ticks down, these petitions are the only things that can now stop a Chinese takeover of the U.S. market. Hundreds of jobs are at stake as well as the principle of fair play in textile trade. That’s why we need the U.S. government to approve these petitions early in 2005.”

U.S. importer and retailer groups have vowed to fight approval of the petitions, saying they would “disrupt the orderly flow of goods” into the United States.

Since the signing of the accession agreement allowing China to become a member of the World Trade Organization and granting Chinese manufacturers greater access to the U.S market in 2001, Chinese imports have taken a greater portion of the U.S. market annually.

Imports of Chinese-made socks, for example, have risen from less than 1 million dozen pair in 2001 to 22 million dozen pair in 2003, and to 42 million dozen pair in the most recent 12 months ending in August 2004, according to the Domestic Manufacturers Committee.

The committee, a group formed by the National Hosiery Association, successfully filed its own safeguard petition earlier this year.

Chinese textile imports have also played a role in the decline of the domestic textile market for the U.S. cotton industry. U.S. mills accounted for 60 percent of sales of U.S. cotton in 2001. They now account for less than 40 percent.

“The U.S. cotton industry is pleased that our government has given our domestic textile customers a fair hearing on the merits of these latest petitions, and we are hopeful that timely acceptance will be announced for other petitions already filed,” said Woody Anderson, chairman of the National Cotton Council.

“CITA’s announcement is an important first step toward action that can help avert impediments to the orderly development of trade in textile and apparel products while protecting consumers’ access to reasonably priced products from an array of suppliers.”

NCC President Mark Lange also commended CITA’s acceptance of the first petition, noting that the restraints on Chinese textile and apparel imports to the U.S. market, if eventually imposed, will not be severe.

“The products under safeguard action would still be allowed to enter the U.S. market at a 7.5 percent annual rate of growth, about twice the expected growth rate of the U.S. retail market,” Lange said. “The safeguard petition process offers an opportunity for China to enter in negotiations with the United States on voluntarily restraints of Chinese exports. Hopefully, such negotiations would avoid actions that bring uncertainty and disruptions to orderly trade flows.”

The National Council of Textile Organizations and other organizations representing the U.S. textile industry have formerly filed petitions on the following categories:

Category #’s Product Description

-- 347/348 Men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ cotton trousers

-- 647/648 Men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ man-made fiber trousers

-- 338/339 Men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ cotton knit shirts

-- 638/639 Men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ man-made fiber knit shirts

--340/640 Non-knit cotton and man-made fiber shirts

--352/652 Cotton and man-made fiber underwear

--301 Cotton yarn

Additional petitions are being completed for categories 447, wool trousers; 361 cotton sheets; and 620 synthetic filament fabrics. Still other petitions could be filed later, according to the NCC.

“The intent is to file petitions on every category for which imports from China threaten the orderly development of trade,” said NCC Vice President Stephen Felker, a Georgia textile manufacturer. “The initial filings were for categories that are vitally important to maintaining viable U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing sectors, and we will continue to develop data on categories that could constitute a second wave of filings.”

“We are working very hard on the other petitions that we announced would be filed on wool trousers, cotton sheets and other synthetic filament fabrics,” said Karl Spilhaus, president of the National Textile Association.

“The same stands true with the reapplications of petitions on knit fabric, brassieres and dressing gowns, which were approved by the Committee on the Implementation of Textile Agreements, earlier this year. We anticipate filing some of these petitions in the next few days.”

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