US trade officials are to charge an additional 4m dozen garments to China's apparel quota levels for 2006 and 2007 after investigations found more than $80m worth of Chinese garments were illegally trans-shipped during the two-year period.

In a statement yesterday (10 July), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said more than 1,000 cargo containers of apparel were shipped from China but were falsely declared to have come from 11 different countries.

Ten quota categories will be affected by the charges, including cotton knit shirts and cotton trousers.
Over 900 individual importations were involved according to trade officials, with country of origin declarations including the Philippines, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Taiwan and Malaysia. 

The trans-shipments flout an agreement reached in November 2005 between the US Trade Representative and China's Minister of Commerce.

The pact established agreed import levels for certain apparel and textile products made in China and exported to the US during three one-year periods from 1 January 2006.

The final one-year term is due to expire at the end of this year.

US importers say they are not surprised by the timing of the announcement, less than six months before the quotas are set to end.

"This is politics, pure and simple," says Laura Jones, executive director of the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

"CBP has to justify the resources it has dedicated to rummaging through foreign factories and then detaining and seizing apparel shipments since 2006."

She points out that while the total value of the charges is $80m, this is an extremely small sum given that total US apparel imports during those two years was $145bn.