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By
Reuters
Published
Oct 10, 2008
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US lawmaker orders China clothing import monitoring

By
Reuters
Published
Oct 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. textile groups seeking new restrictions on clothing imports from China won a victory on Thursday when an American lawmaker requested the U.S. International Trade Commission to collect data on the trade.

"Monitoring Chinese textile imports will help provide ... timely, accurate information to assess whether Chinese imports are causing or are threatening to cause market disruption in the United States and in developing countries," Rep. Charles Rangel, House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman, said in a statement.

A quota "safeguard" agreement negotiated by Washington and Beijing in 2005 expires at the end of December, prompting U.S. industry fears of increased cheap Chinese imports.

Rangel, a New York Democrat, accused the Bush administration of "not taking this concern seriously" and said he would use data collected by the ITC to take appropriate action if it shows U.S. producers are at risk from increased imports.

U.S. law gives Rangel, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the authority to effectively order such a fact-finding investigation, which ITC will now initiate in the next day or so, an ITC spokeswoman said.

U.S. textile and labor groups applauded the move.

"Given Chinese history of subsidies and other illegal trade practices, it is just common-sense to at least monitor their trade so that the Ways and Means Committee can respond in a timely manner should disruptive activity be found," said Karl Spilhaus, President of the National Textile Association.

But U.S. clothing importers said they were disappointed in Rangel's action, which they feared could lead to new quotas even though imports from China have declined recently.

"With the current economic uncertainty, and the bad September results reported yesterday by retailers, we think this is not the way to proceed," said Julie Hughes, a vice president at the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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