Barriers go up to Chinese clothing

The USA and EU nego­ti­at­ed a belts and braces set of tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion mea­sures that Chi­na was forced to accept as part of the price of join­ing the WTO in 2001. The Chi­na Pro­to­col of Acces­sion pro­vides both a tex­tile/­cloth­ing-spe­cif­ic safeguard—available until 2009—and a broad­er safe­guard for all prod­ucts includ­ing tex­tiles and cloth­ing that is avail­able until 2013. In the past few days the US gar­ment indus­try “has filed requests”:http://www.textileworld.com/News.htm?CD=5&ID=8095 for new ‘spe­cial’ tex­tile safe­guard quo­tas against Chi­na that are designed to off­set the impact of the 1 Jan­u­ary elim­i­na­tion of the 30-year-old Mul­ti­fiber Arrange­ment quo­tas. It has fur­ther requests in the piple­line includ­ing an ‘exten­sion’ of the quo­tas imposed last year (see below). Under the Pro­to­col terms the US has only to request a con­sul­ta­tion with Chi­na on the imports in ques­tion to trig­ger an auto­mat­ic 7.5 per cent growth ceil­ing in Chi­nese ship­ments over the fol­low­ing 12 months. Since U.S. con­sumers have lift­ed their pur­chas­es of Chi­nese cloth­ing by 60% or more in the past two years—following the open­ing of the gar­ment mar­ket to China—a 7.5 per cent growth rate dra­mat­i­cal­ly penal­izes U.S. con­sumers. The US gar­ment importers and retail­ers have strong­ly con­demned the new quo­ta appli­ca­tions, point­ing out that the prob­lems of the US gar­ment indus­try can­not be solved by import pro­tec­tion; they are due to a long-term loss of com­pet­i­tive­ness. bq. Call­ing the government’s action on safe­guard peti­tions “mis­guid­ed,” Lau­ra E. Jones, exec­u­tive direc­tor the US Asso­ci­a­tion of Importers of Tex­tiles and Appar­el, said US man­u­fac­tur­ers are mak­ing a “bogus attempt” to blame oth­ers for their fail­ure to com­pete. She accused tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ers of attack­ing their own cus­tomers and said a bet­ter approach would be to cre­ate part­ner­ships between the mills and their cus­tomers. (“Tex­tile World”:http://www.textileworld.com/News.htm?CD=5&ID=8067) The re-appli­ca­tion of the exist­ing quo­tas is also con­tro­ver­sial. In Novem­ber last year “the US invoked”:http://www.inquit.com/article/116/what-the-textile-quotas-mean the tex­tile-spe­cif­ic safe­gard for the first time. This allowed it to imple­ment new quan­ti­ta­tive restric­tions on imports of Chi­nese gar­ments for one year only “with­out re-appli­ca­tion” (accord­ing to the Pro­to­col). Under the terms of Pro­to­col the USA could use this safe­guard with­out test­ing for actu­al ‘injury’ and with­out con­sult­ing or com­pen­sat­ing Chi­na. Now the US tex­tile indus­try “has applied”:http://www.textileworld.com/News.htm?CD=5&ID=8067 for an “exten­sion” of those quo­tas, appar­ent­ly con­trary to the ‘with­out reap­pli­ca­tion’ pro­vi­sions of the Pro­to­col. Since the Chi­nese Pro­to­col of Acces­sion is not jus­ti­cia­ble in the WTO dis­pute set­tle­ment sys­tem, the US courts will pre­sumbly be free to deter­mine any dis­pute about the mean­ing of the phrase ‘with­out reap­pli­ca­tion’. They might, for exam­ple, find that the 2003 quo­tas can be re-instat­ed on the basis of a new (but iden­ti­cal) appli­ca­tion.

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