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Jennifer Marks

Window Petition Re-Considered

Washington — The immediate future of curtain imports from China remains unclear. The U.S. Commerce Department committee that places safeguard caps on imports rejected a petition for such restrictions last week — but the coalition of manufacturing associations and the textiles union backing the measure resubmitted a day later.

The problem was “a matter of semantics,” according to the National Council of Textiles Organizations, which filed along with the National Textiles Association, and the American Manufacturers Trade Action Coalition as well as the UNITE HERE union.

The original petition provided data the coalition claimed encompassed “the vast majority” of U.S. production. The government requires that the data represent “substantially all” U.S. production, according to Missy Johnson, NCTO spokeswoman.

The Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) has a 15-day period in which to review the information. If it takes the full period to consider the petition, CITA would render its decision on or about July 14.

The China Home Textiles Association has protested the safeguard request in an open letter to CITA, the Commerce Department division that since May 20 has invoked safeguard action on combed cotton yarn, men and boys' shirts, knit shirts, blouses, trousers, and underwear produced in China.

Although curtain imports from China rose by almost 33 percent since quota was eliminated on the category in 2002, the average unit price has risen from $2.85 in 2002 to $3.10 in the first four months of 2005, according the Chinese association's figures.

“The withering of the curtain manufacturing in the U.S. is the consequence of the industrial relocation (by U.S. companies),” the association argued. If the U.S. took safeguard measures toward Chinese curtains, the first to be injured would be American importers, customers and U.S. companies with joint ventures in China, it claimed.

The association also said China has approximately 1 million workers in the curtain manufacturing industry, and expressed concern for the large-scale unemployment that would result from safeguard restrictions on the category.

Once CITA decides to pursue safeguards on a category, it formally requests negotiations with Chinese trade authorities on the matter. At the same time, imports are immediately capped at 7.5 percent of imports recorded during the first 12 months of the prior 14-month period.

If American and Chinese trade representatives fail to reach an agreement within 90 days, the United States is allowed under World Trade Organization rules to hold imports at safeguard levels. The safeguard caps must be re-instated annually. Under WTO conventions, all safeguard actions will be wiped out in 2008.

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