Thirteen textile and apparel trade groups from 11 NAFTA, CAFTA and Andean region countries are calling on their respective governments to insist that textile and apparel are the focus of separate sectoral discussions on market access during the upcoming Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December.

However, to do this would involve removing textiles and clothing from the industrial products classification in the NAMA (Non-Agricultural Market Access) talks.

The groups say that millions of textile and apparel jobs in the region are threatened by tariff cuts proposed by China and other countries under a Swiss Formula approach in the industrial products classification. 

They argue these tariff cuts would cause most US textile tariffs to drop below 5 per cent and destroy the trade preferences currently in place in the CAFTA, ANDEAN and NAFTA countries.

Textile and apparel exports from the CAFTA/NAFTA/ANDEAN region totalled $39 billion in 2004.
The groups also note that only in a separate textile sectoral negotiation can the need for a special safeguard or other compensating mechanism against what they believe are "China's unfair trade practices" - such as currency manipulation, direct government subsidisation, subsidised energy and shipping costs, and free credit from state banks - be discussed. 

Prior to the introduction of safeguards earlier this year, Chinese textile and apparel exports to the U.S. and EU market increased by $9 billion while exports from developing countries decreased by $5 billion.

In apparel categories removed from quota control in 2002, China now controls 73 per cent of the US market.