That was the point brought home today by National Cotton Council Vice Chairman Woody Anderson during a press briefing in Washington. The briefing was conducted by members of a textile/fiber coalition whose aim is to curb the onslaught of textile and apparel imports into the United States from the People’s Republic of China.

“I want to join with others in expressing our sincere appreciation to members of Congress for their broad, bipartisan support for our initiative to make our international trading partners play by the rules and, thereby, help in our efforts to preserve American jobs,” said the Colorado City, Texas producer.

“This is not about protectionism; this is about insisting that the administration utilize and enforce the provisions of international trade agreements.”

At the press conference, coalition members said 139 members of the House of Representatives and 26 senators have signed letters urging the administration to invoke the special textile China safeguard provision included in China's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement.

The senators and representatives – many of whom sent separate letters of their own – also asked the administration to not include provisions in future free trade agreements that would allow non-participating countries to benefit from agreements designed to promote trade and investment between signatory countries.

The letters specifically call on the administration not to include so-called Tariff Preference Levels that allow non-participating countries to circumvent rules of origin and benefit from future free trade agreements at the expense of U.S. and regional manufacturers.

Anderson pointed out that, historically, about 60 percent of U.S. cotton production has been sold to domestic textile mills. He said that while that percentage has slipped to about 40 percent, "the domestic textile industry remains the most stable and reliable market for U.S. cotton and maintenance of a viable domestic textile industry is, therefore, critically important to the future health of the U.S. cotton industry."

He said the NCC has joined with other fiber and textile organizations to encourage implementation of the China safeguards because cotton products on which quotas have been removed are among the fastest growing import categories.

Of the 29 categories for which quotas were removed at the end of 2001, eight were cotton-containing products. During the first 12 months following the lifting of quotas, China's exports of those eight product categories into the U.S. increased an average of 640 percent, while the average price was slashed 71 percent.

"We are convinced that this kind of growth constitutes market disruption and is unmistakable grounds for implementing safeguards provided in the U.S.-China WTO Accession Agreement," Anderson noted.

"While textile imports from China have flooded the U.S. market with cotton textiles, China has been unwilling to implement regulations that provide consistent, predictable and transparent market access for U.S. agricultural products, including cotton,” said Anderson.

“We continue to work through USDA and USTR, to insist that China fully comply with its WTO obligations. We are not asking for new measures – only that that U.S. officials utilize the provisions available under the WTO."

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com