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Group files injunction against agency considering China safeguards

NEW YORK — The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA) — a trade association representing domestic retailers, importers and distributors of textiles and apparel goods — filed an injunction today against the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Labor, State, Treasury and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for "wrongly" considering to impose safeguards against Chinese goods to be removed from quota next month.

By filing a lawsuit, USA-ITA said it is seeking full due-process rights in U.S. government decision-making and rulings that affect U.S. business decisions.

USA-ITA charges that the five agencies comprising the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) are accepting requests from "anonymous" petitioners based "solely on anecdotal bits and pieces of information" in violation of importers’ due process rights. CITA is responsible for considering textiles safeguard petitions and implementing U.S. textiles trade policy.

"If they want to change the rules, then they have to issue new guidelines," stated USA-ITA’s legal counsel Brenda Jacobs, an attorney in the Washington office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. "CITA has effectively, unilaterally changed the rules without issuing new guidelines," she said, adding that CITA’s own rules from May 2003 state that petitions for safeguards must be based on actual market disruption.

Laura Jones, executive director of USA-ITA, said her association had no choice but to ask the court to stop the government from continuing to consider textiles safeguard requests that she said are clearly unjustified. "The government is accepting petitions that don’t even meet its own limited standards. Even worse, CITA unfairly changed the rules with no public notification," she said.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition’s (AMTAC) Auggie Tantillo, executive director, issued the following statement in response: "The fact that USA-ITA is filing for an injunction that seeks to prevent CITA from considering special textile China safeguard petitions on the basis of threat strongly signals that they believe the textile/apparel/fiber producing/labor coalition’s petitions will be approved if they are decided on merits."

AMTAC noted that the Working Party Report that facilitated China ’s accession into the WTO allows countries to implement safeguards on the basis of threat. AMTAC doesn’t believe USA-ITA’s suit will succeed because "if a safeguard cannot be used on the basis of threat, then no safeguard would exist at all."

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