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Washington urged to use caution over possible import restrictions
( 2003-05-26 09:48) (1)

China "deeply regrets" the United States' decision to start procedures governing the use of a safeguard mechanism to restrict textile and apparel imports from China, a Ministry of Commerce official said.

"Although the US side modified the procedural draft based on our suggestion, some substantial parts unfavourable to China have not been changed,'' said the official, who refused to be named.

"We hope the United States will act cautiously when considering requests for safeguards against China textiles,'' the official said.

The US Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements under the US Department of Commerce published a notice last Thursday regarding the procedures on the Federal Register, notwithstanding the strong opposition from China.

The notice sets forth the procedures that the committee will follow in considering requests from the US public for textile and apparel safeguards against textile and apparel products of Chinese origin.

A spokesman from the Chinese Textile Industry Association said his association will pay close attention to developments.

"If the United States moves to implement restrictions on Chinese exports, we will ask the relevant departments of the Chinese Government for countermeasures to protect Chinese textile manufacturers,'' said the official, who also refused to be named.

On April 23, the association unsuccessfully urged the United States to refrain from launching such procedures.

The American Textile Manufacturers Institute urged the US Government to stop Chinese textile exports as soon as the procedures are published.

On September 5 last year, the same institute filed a petition to request that the US Government impose quotas on knitted fabrics, brassieres, gloves, nightwear and textile luggage from China.

The newly published procedures said a request from a qualified entity will be considered if the request includes specific information in support of a claim that a textile or apparel product of Chinese origin is threatening to impede the orderly development of trade.

The committee will then seek public comment and make a decision.

A request for consultation will be made if the decision is affirmative.

China has to restrict its shipments to a level no greater than 7.5 per cent above the amount that entered the United States during the first 12 months of the most recent 14 months preceding the request for consultations.

Under the terms of China's accession to the World Trade Organization in December 2001, WTO members may impose specific safeguard measures or quotas on Chinese textile and apparel products if the importing country determines that such shipments from China disrupt or threaten to disrupt the market.

Cao Xinyu, deputy director of the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Textiles, denied China was disrupting the market. He said that China's increase in its textile exports to the United States was mostly achieved by their displacing other countries' exports, not by dramatically increasing US imports.

Improved management and the application of advanced technology, shortened delivery periods, and lower costs due to the lifting of quotas have all enabled China to sharpen its edge over other countries, Cao said.

Cao said his chamber of commerce may ask big US importers for help as their interests will also be hurt if limits are imposed.

Quota increases or the lifting of quota limitations benefited Chinese textile and apparel exports last year.

The export value to the United States was US$7.07 billion, up 15.15 per cent over the previous year. Textile exports to the European Union were worth US$6.417 billion, up 23.4 per cent.

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