139 US Representatives and 26 US Senators from 36 different states on Wednesday signed letters urging the Bush Administration to invoke the special textile China safeguard clause that would help stem the surge of low-cost imports flooding America’s shores.

And they urge the government not to include exceptions, such as tariff preference levels (TPLs), that would allow China and other foreign suppliers to benefit from agreements designed to promote trade and investment between signatory countries at the expense of US and regional manufacturers.

The 60-day window for the US government to approve or deny the industry’s China safeguard petitions closes on November 17.

The united textile/fibre coalition filed China safeguard petitions on knit fabric, brassieres and dressing gowns on July 24, 2003. It believes that if the US government approved the petitions, it could limit the growth of Chinese imports to 7.5 per cent over current trade.

According to figures supplied by the coalition, China’s exports of the products on the safeguard petitions have increased dramatically. Since 2001, exports of dressing gowns from China have increased by 905 per cent, exports of brassieres by 382 per cent and knit fabric by 28,000 per cent.

Geoff Schofield, president of Drake Extrusion Inc and executive committee member of the American Fiber Manufacturers Association, added: “China continues to flaunt accepted norms for competition in international trade. The manipulation of its currency is an attack on American manufacturing and this alone calls for immediate use of quota safeguards.”

Jim Chesnutt, CEO of the National Spinning Co and vice chairman of American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), remarked: “When elected officials from three-fourths of the states are sounding the alarm, it sends a powerful message about the impact trade policies will have on the 2004 election for Congress and the White House.

”And if we don’t get the actions we need from our own government, I would expect that the American textile industry, which has embarked on a massive voter registration drive to get our workers to the polls, will be looking for new leadership.”

Roger Milliken, CEO of Milliken & Co and co-chair of American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition said: “Milliken & Co associates actively have lobbied their congressmen, senators and President Bush in support of the textile industry’s China safeguard petitions and have encouraged their friends and families to do the same.

”These combined efforts have resulted in the transmission of approximately 30,000 e-mails and letters to Washington, DC. Milliken & Co has also begun a company-wide voter registration drive.”

Overall, Chinese exports to the US textile and apparel market more than doubled in 2002, growing by 117 per cent. China’s exports surged in 2003, up an additional 75 per cent through August. China is now the largest textile and apparel exporter to the United States. In August, China accounted for 21 per cent of textile and apparel imports, up from 7 per cent in 2001.