Officials at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) on Monday called on the Bush Administration to take immediate action over Indonesia’s decision to ban textile imports.

Indonesia banned the sale of imported textiles last week in a bid to support local manufacturers who are struggling to compete against cheap imports and rising manufacturing costs.

But in a strongly-worded letter to US Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, ATMI chairman Van May blasted the ban as illegal and in breach of WTO rules.

He also criticised the Indonesian government for imposing such a sweeping ban in response to increased imports from only one nation – China.

May said Indonesia could have legally taken a WTO safeguard action to restrain Chinese imports, rather than violating WTO rules by banning imports from all countries.

He added: "High applied tariff rates, which often average between 20 and 25 per cent, problems with arbitrary customs valuations, add-on taxes, excessive paperwork as well as Customs delays, have limited US textile exports (to Indonesia) to around $15 million a year."

According to the US textile industry trade group, the top US textile exports are cotton and man-made fibre, broadwoven fabric and specialty and industrial fabrics.

May added that the US should immediately open talks with Indonesia in a bid to overturn the ban or hit back by prohibiting all imports of Indonesian textile goods – worth $350m last year.