WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House lawmaker in charge of trade wants the government to track what could be a dramatic increase in imports of Chinese-made clothing and other textile products once a deal limiting those goods expires at year's end.
"I am concerned that a market disrupting surge in textile and apparel imports from China could occur" in 2009, wrote the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
"Unfortunately, however, the administration does not appear to be taking these concerns seriously," Rangel wrote Shara L. Aranoff, who heads the U.S. International Trade Commission, in a letter dated Wednesday.
Rangel cited fears the U.S. textile industry could see a repeat of what happened in 2005, after quotas on Chinese textiles were eliminated under a World Trade Organization agreement.
Imports of cotton trousers from China increased from 918,000 dozen in the first half of 2004 to 17,454,000 dozen in the first half of 2005. Sales from China crowded out imports from other countries, particularly poor nations in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and contributed to the loss of thousands of U.S. jobs. Chinese prices dropped by an average of 40 percent and apparel exports jumped by nearly 600 percent.
The United States and China agreed in November 2005 to limit imports from China. That agreement expires this Dec. 31.
Rangel wants the commission to provide the committee with reports on the volume, value and import market share of certain textile and apparel imports from China. The information would help the committee decide whether a more extensive investigation was needed.
Textile industry associations and unions raised the possibility of new safeguards once the remaining quotas are removed.
U.S. textile manufacturers "cannot compete indefinitely against producers from countries like China that both engage in predatory trade practices and benefit from illegal subsidies," said Ruth Stephens, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute. Rangel, she said, "is sending a clear message that his committee won't allow disruption to the U.S. market."
The National Council of Textile Organizations says that China offers its textile industry 63 different subsidies.
In late September, 73 House members asked Bush to include China in a program that ensures Vietnam does not use subsidies to subvert the marketplace.