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U.S. textile offer 'damages cotton'

Cotton Council officials said the negotiated import quotas for Vietnam that have just been reported would severely damage the U.S. cotton industry’s production and manufacturing sectors along with the manufacturing sectors in Mexico and Central America.

“I am dismayed that the U.S. government would even consider negotiating over-generous quotas with Vietnam while the U.S. textile industry is reeling from surging imports of textiles and apparel from China,” said Robert W. Greene, a Courtland, Ala., ginner and the NCC’s chairman.

“The U.S. government has yet to establish safeguards that were guaranteed with respect to Chinese trade and is now offering doubled market access to Vietnam knowing that trade data is tainted by Chinese transshipments.”

Greene said the Cotton Council was informed by the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office that the negotiated quota levels were based on recent trade activity with Vietnam.

However, in the same meeting USTR officials revealed that spot checks by the U.S. Customs Service of shipments reputedly from Vietnam revealed a significant volume of highly sensitive products actually were transshipped from China. That means Vietnam’s quotas would be based on erroneous, inflated trade statistics.

U.S. negotiators reportedly have offered quotas for cotton knit shirts and woven pants that are more than double the reported shipments from Vietnam, said Greene. Knit cotton shirts and woven cotton pants are products that offer the greatest potential for mutually beneficial trade between the U.S. and countries in the Caribbean and Andean regions.

“This would negate years of hard work by Congress in passing the Caribbean Basin Initiative and Andean Trade Preferences Acts,” he said.

“This offer seriously damages U.S. cotton growers and textile manufacturers,” he noted. “U.S. cotton and cotton products flowing to Western Hemisphere trading partners under preferential or free trade agreements have the potential to benefit all segments of the U.S. cotton industry and our trading partners.

“The market access offered to Vietnam by the U.S. negotiators could largely preclude much of the potential benefit from future Western Hemisphere trade agreements. The U.S. government should immediately implement unilateral restraints and only renew negotiations with Vietnam when trade data can be verified.”

The American Textile Manufacturers Institute has filed protests with the U.S. government over its failure to implement safeguards that were promised when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in January, 2002.

Over the past 12 months, it said, imports of Chinese goods have jumped by 600 percent “and yet the U.S. government has thus far refused to invoke the China textile safeguard,” the ATMI said in a recent statement.

“This lack of response comes at a time when U.S. textile mills are still closing, U.S. textile jobs are still being lost and the U.S. textile industry is still under great distress. It is occurring when China, in the space of a single year, has overtaken Mexico and Canada to become far and away the biggest exporter of textile and apparel products to the United States.”

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