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New market challenges will turn world ‘upside down’

At the New York Market — Amid the preoccupations of war in Iraq, the suppliers arriving for the New York Home Textiles Market truly represent the world —Plano and Pakistan, Charlotte and Shanghai, San Francisco and São Paulo.

While they negotiate, the 2005 deadline for the elimination of quotas grows ever closer. Also looming is the 10-year phase-out of tariffs on textiles, a proposal offered by the U.S. government during the Doha Round of world trade talks.

Tomorrow is coming on fast.

“It’s going to turn the world upside down,” said Salo Grosfeld, president, J.R. United Industries. The Miami-based company is among the leading U.S.-based importers of towels in the country, sourcing largely out of Pakistan, India and South America. Grosfeld welcomes the impending change. “It’s about time this industry opened the doors and turned into a competitive market,” he said. “It should be like every other business — let the best man win.”

On the other side of the supply chain, the unfurling of free trade appears less certain. Welspun ceo and executive director Rajesh Mandawewala noted that the government could extend protections to domestic manufacturers by enacting Regional Trade Agreements, specifying the use of U.S.-made fabrics to qualify for duty-free status. That would slow U.S. market penetration for the Indian-based towel manufacturing operation and others — for a time, he said.

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