US to limit Chinese textile imports

Washington, August 18:

The administration of US president George W Bush believes it is close to an agreement with China to stem a flood of low-cost Chinese clothing imports that have been a boon to US consumers but have battered US manufacturers.

US negotiators wrapped up two days of talks in San Francisco yesterday, saying agreement was within reach and could be accomplished with one more bargaining session. The stakes for both countries are high. Americans could see their clothing bills rise by $6 billion annually — about $20 for each US consumer — if their access to cheap Chinese products is limited.

However, American textile and clothing manufacturers say they desperately need relief to stem a surge in Chinese imports that began from January 1 after a three-decade system of global quotas expired. The US industry says 19 plants have been forced to close and 26,000 jobs lost this year alone.

For the Chinese, an accord limiting textile and clothing imports would remove one item from a lengthy list of trade friction with the US, where lawmakers have grown increasingly unhappy with a trade deficit with China that hit an all-time high of $162 billion last year and is running 32 per cent above last year’s pace. David Spooner, the administration’s chief textile negotiator, said the two days of talks at a hotel on Nob Hill had gone extremely well and that an agreement could be wrapped up with just one more round of discussions, expected to take place in China later this month. “We hope we can resolve this in one more meeting, but we will take however long it takes,” Spooner said. However, industry representatives sounded less optimistic, saying that both countries remained far apart in a number of areas.