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Quota Makes WTO Agenda

Last Friday's World Trade Organization Council on Trade in Goods session represents the first time the WTO has taken up a discussion of the economic ramifications —including labor, social and security concerns — associated with the Jan. 1 expiration of quotas on textiles and apparel.

These discussions were made possible because Mauritius, Madagascar and Uganda formally placed the quota-expiration issue on the agenda of the Oct. 1 meeting.

Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said he expected at least one country to propose a three-year extension of quotas that day. “If nothing else, it creates an environment that forces the WTO, and member countries against extending quotas, to figure out what it needs to do short of that,” he said prior to the WTO session.

“The meeting will test the ability of the WTO to address the economic needs of a super majority of its members. If it sweeps the quota phase-out issue under the rug, it will demonstrate a potentially fatal inability to deal with the most pressing trade issues of the day,” said Tantillo. “We assume that a number of countries are going to respond negatively, particularly China, India and others.”

According to Ziya Sukun, executive director of Turkish trade association ITKIB USA, the word from China — based on a prior meeting in Geneva with one of the largest coalition members and Chinese government missions — was that China wanted all WTO member countries to be included in any proposals or safeguard petitions.

“Since our coalition is now 55 countries strong, the WTO has recognized that this issue needs to be addressed,” Sukun added.

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, added, “We are working on two distinct tracks at the same time to, one, force the WTO to discuss this issue, and, two, issue safeguard petitions that will create the temporary stability we need to get through the situation in the short term while the WTO is deciding what to do on the matter.”

Executives from the U.S. textiles and apparel industry taking part in the action last week said they will file a minimum of three threat-based China-safeguard petitions — broken down by category — with the U.S. government by the end of this week.

Changing World
Changes in Import Market Share for Home Furnishings Products

Country 2001 June '04
Source: National Council of Textile Organizations
China 5% 70%
Mexico 38 4
Pakistan 12 7
Thailand 8 3
Taiwan 4 0
India 5 4
South Korea 4 5
Philippines 2 0
Cambodia 2 0
Sri Lanka 2.8 .3


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