Textile leaders seek quota extension from Bush

Textile leaders seek quota extension from Bush

Textile industry leaders are seeking support from President Bush and Congress for an extension to the 40-year-old quota system that was meant to limit the import of products into the United States and protect domestic manufacturers.

They've created a one-page letter that calls for at least a three-year extension on the quotas that are currently set to expire on Jan. 1. It suggests a link between the health of the textile industry and the war on terror.

The domestic textile industry and its supporters have long complained that China competes unfairly through heavy subsidies of its manufacturers and other unfair trade practices.

The letter lays out what might happen if China, as expected, comes to dominate the world textile and apparel market once controls expire. It is to be circulated next week on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will be asked to sign it, and then forwarded to Bush by the end of the month.

It asks Bush to support an emergency meeting this summer of the World Trade Organization, at which the group would be asked to extend the quota system at least through 2008.

The letter talks again about the possibility of more than 600,000 jobs lost in the United States and as many as 30 million around the world when quotas end after a 10-year phase-out.

Textile leaders say that, as jobs disappear and economies suffer, nations will be less able to afford fighting terrorism and more likely to become breeding grounds for terrorist activity.

The letter also notes that a loss of textile jobs in Latin America will trigger more illegal immigration and further burden local and state governments within the United States.

Critics of quotas say the 10-year phase-out has been sufficient time for the textile industry to prepare. But textile officials say that when they agreed to that arrangement, China was not a member of the WTO. It joined the organization in 2002.

The textile community requests to the WTO are spelled out in a document called the Istanbul Declaration, which was formulated in Turkey in March. To date, 62 trade organizations from 35 countries have signed it and asked their governments to petition the WTO for relief.