In a rare show of strength, the six largest US textile and fibre industry trade associations have unanimously approved an aggressive, coordinated lobbying campaign designed to fight Chinese imports and ensure what they describe as "the industry's survival."

The decision to resort to "any and all political steps" was made at a meeting in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

Taking part were leaders from the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), the American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA), American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), American Yarn Spinners Association (AYSA), National Cotton Council (NCC) and National Textile Association (NTA).

The centrepiece of the campaign is focused lobbying effort designed to convince the US government that it needs to "act swiftly to counter the threat from China."

Allen Gant, ATMI second vice chairman and CEO of Glen Raven Mills said: "When Japan and Australia eliminated their textile quotas, Chinese exports quickly cornered 75 per cent of the market. Unless the US government acts decisively before China's textile quotas expire in June 2005, Chinese exports undoubtedly will dominate the US market in a similar fashion - eviscerating the US textile industry.

ATMI believes that without government intervention, China will gain control of 65-75 per cent of the US apparel market once quotas on Chinese imports are removed on 1 January 2005.

It says in the 12 months to March 2003, China's textile and apparel exports to the US have surged 140 per cent - while more than 40,000 US textile workers lost their jobs.

So the initial goal of the campaign is to petition the US government to implement the special textile safeguards negotiated when China joined the WTO to moderate surging Chinese exports.

The lobbying effort will also concentrate on preventing Chinese goods from "unfairly taking advantage of regional free-trade agreements now being negotiated," in particular the proposed Central American agreement.

In addition, the associations agreed to work against the inclusion of exceptions, called tariff preference levels (TPLs), that allow Chinese and other Asian textile exports to enter the region duty-free.

Jonathan Stevens, NTA vice chairman and president of Ames Textile Corp, said: "China's massive surge into the market will render all US trade agreements with Western Hemisphere countries obsolete and cause the loss of millions of textile jobs from Chile to Canada and every country in between."