Twenty-four members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to President Bush yesterday (8 December) urging the United States to take a strong stand on two textile-related issues at the upcoming World Trade Organisation talks.

The Members want the US to oppose a European Union-led initiative to grant Least Developed Countries (LDCs) duty-free and quota-free access to all developed markets.

They are also seeking a Special Textile Sectoral (STS) that would cover textiles and clothing within the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) talks scheduled during the Doha Development Round Hong Kong Ministerial which takes place on 13-18 December. 
 
"The EU-led initiative must be opposed," said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), adding that textile and apparel trade associations in the AGOA/CAFTA/NAFTA/ANDEAN regions are all on record as opposing the LDC proposal. 

"According to UN data, China (including Hong Kong) supplies 60% of the fabric needs for Bangladesh and Cambodia, the largest LDC exporters.

"With duty-free status, Chinese penetration of the US market would increase dramatically as US apparel imports would shift away from western hemispheric producers that use US-made components to producers in Bangladesh and Cambodia that would be using Chinese-made components. 

"Such a result would certainly cause massive job losses in the United States and Latin America."

Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), added that: "An STS is critical for textiles and clothing if the US textile industry is to be preserved in the long term. 

"China and other countries are pushing for drastic cuts in US textile tariffs as part of a formula approach under NAMA.

"Until we have eliminated the non-tariff barriers and trade distorting practices employed by many countries around the globe, especially China, we should not further expose US textile and apparel manufacturers to heavily-subsidised imports from those countries who refuse to live up to their WTO obligations. An STS gives the United States the chance to do just that."

However, the US appeal has been branded as "repulsive" by Hong Kong Textile Council vice-chairman Willy Lin Sun-mo.

Mr Lin told the South China Morning Post: "This US petition is so repulsive, it won't get any sympathy votes. I hope Bush will be sane enough to say no to this, otherwise it will be bad for the US image. I admire the EU plan as it will help the poor countries."