Industry associations representing US importers and retailers are protesting against new plans to monitor apparel imports from China to see if they are being sold at an unfairly low price.

The intention for a China monitoring program is outlined in the House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill at the end of June.

The monitoring programme would add new uncertainties to sourcing from China after  safeguard limits on imports from the country expire on 31 December this year.

The report also calls for a one-year extension to the existing monitoring program for Vietnam, which is examining imports for evidence that apparel products are being are illegally priced and dumped in the US market.

This Vietnam programme is currently due to expire in January, after two reviews by the US Department of Commerce found no basis for initiating an anti-dumping case.

Textile and apparel importers and retailers are strongly opposed to both the Vietnam monitoring program and plans to extend it to China.

In a letter sent yesterday to Congressional leaders in the trade and appropriations process, four trade associations said the plans could have "significant implications for trade."

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), National Retail Federation (NRF), Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA) also claim the report language was inserted without any consultation with industry.

"Had the views of any of the relevant constituencies been solicited or considered, the Appropriations Committee would have learned that such a monitoring program is controversial and should not be supported or promoted by the Congress," the trade groups said.

The added: "We are concerned that this is primarily intended to chill and micromanage trade by encouraging the movement of sourcing to other countries with no apparent gain to the United States."

The groups also point out that most domestic apparel production does not compete with imports from Asia - so it is unlikely that US apparel makers would be able to show they have been injured by the allegedly unfairly traded products.

There is as yet no timeframe for introducing the China program or any details of the products it would cover.