INDIA ASKS WTO TO REVIEW US CURBS ON WOOL GARMENTS

INDIA ASKS WTO TO REVIEW US CURBS ON WOOL GARMENTS

The government is calling for the referee to resolve a dispute over U.S. curbs on exports of woolen garments.

The Textile Monitoring Body of the World Trade Organization will hear both India and the United States at a session beginning Aug. 28, official sources said Thursday. The WTO this year replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as the global mediator of commerce.If the textile panel fails to back its case, India intends to rachet up the complaint with an appeal to the dispute-settlement arm of the WTO, the sources said.

The United States imposed, retroactively to April 18, restraints on imports of three categories of woolen garments from India - men's jackets (category 434), women's jackets (category 435), and women's blouses and men's shirts (category 440).

Washington said annual imports from India cannot exceed 45,750 dozen men's jackets, 37,487 dozen women's jackets, and 76,698 dozen women's blouses and men's shirts.

The United States first issued the required "consultation call" last

December to discuss restraints in terms of a bilateral pact and the Multi- Fibre Arrangement that governs such trade.

When officials of the two sides met in April, the Indian delegation argued that the call was invalid as both the MFA and bilateral pact had expired. The U.S. side accepted the argument and issued a fresh call.

This call was discussed in Washington in June, but there was no agreement.

Under WTO rules, the United States can impose unilateral import limits if consultation fails, but it is duty-bound to notify the textile monitoring body. The Clinton administration has done both.

In its presentation next month, Indian representatives will contend that the United States cannot impose quota limits unless there is "serious damage" to domestic production from increased and low-cost imports.

"We're saying that there is no serious damage and not much production loss," one source told The Journal of Commerce. "And the production loss is not caused by imports."

India's woolen garment exports to the United States last year earned $17.7 million out of total textile exports of $1.2 billion. The U.S. woolen industry has reportedly claimed that Indian imports are rising rapidly, something denied by the Indian side.