American hosiery makers have asked the Bush administration to limit shipments of Chinese-made socks into the United States, seeking sanctions similar to those imposed on three other textile categories last year.

In a petition filed on Monday, US manufacturers asked the government to cap the growth of Chinese sock imports at 7.5 per cent over the next year, far below the sizeable increases that have been occurring.

"It is not too late to save our domestic sock industry," the chairman of the US Hosiery Association's Domestic Manufacturing Committee, Charles Cole, said.

"The US sock industry is the most competitive sector of the US apparel industry we have left in this country."

According to the petitioners, sock imports from China to the US have grown from less than 1 million dozen pairs in 2001 to 22m dozen pairs in 2003.

This, they say, has caused US sock production to drop from 207m dozen pairs in 2001 to 166m dozen pairs in 2003.

"We have a very compelling case for quota relief and expect the most stringent possible quota limit to be imposed on Chinese sock imports as soon as possible," Cole said.

The US Commerce Department has until July 20 to decide whether to take the case filed by four textile groups.

It will then have at least three more months to conduct an investigation and decide whether to grant the request for import relief.