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Importers Oppose Any New Textile Restrictions In WTO Negotiations

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As another round of preliminary discussions designed to develop a framework for WTO trade liberalization negotiations later this year gets underway in Geneva this week, a coalition of textile and apparel importers issued a new appeal to avoid any new restrictions on imports.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Portman, five trade associations representing major textile and apparel importers said they are willing to support textile sectoral negotiations provided they are not used to limit market access, but instead to encourage greater trade liberalization. The letter was signed by the heads of the Arlington, Va.-based American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Washington-based National Retail Federation (NRF), the New York City-based United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, the Princeton, N.J.-based Travel Goods Association and the Arlington, Va.-based Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The letter said: “We are steadfastly opposed to any attempt to use a separate sectoral negotiation to exempt textiles and apparel from the general Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) formula in an attempt to maintain special protection for this sector. We remain strongly opposed to any effort to resurrect a quota regime or extend the China safeguard process past 2008.” With respect to tariffs, the organizations support a so-called “zero-for-zero” formula whereby the United States would bring its tariffs down to zero if other countries do likewise.

US textile manufacturers have strongly supported a sectoral approach to the nonagricultural negotiations, but for different reasons. They would like them to result in minimal tariff reductions and a permanent safeguard mechanism that could be employed when imports threaten to disrupt US markets.

NRF President Sandra L. Kennedy said the United States must “set the standard” to reach a comprehensive result in the NAMA by rejecting calls for a restrictive apparel and textile sectoral.

This week’s meetings in Geneva are part of a process to finalize the formula for dealing with the broad trade liberalization negotiations. Government trade officials hope to complete that phase of the process by the end of April.


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