Blog: Leonie BarrieScaremongering on safeguards

Leonie Barrie | 16 September 2009

There’s a lot of scaremongering going on just now, with media reports and trade groups hinting that President Obama’s decision to impose tariffs on imported tyres from China will lead to a flood of new petitions – especially from the textile and apparel industry.

I spent most of yesterday talking to industry experts about the situation, and they’re agreed that while there’s a slim chance some petitions will be filed against apparel made in China, the likelihood is largely being exaggerated.

The big difference between tyres and textiles, it seems, hinges not on US law but on the accession agreement signed when China joined the WTO in late 2001.

This says an industry may petition for duties against Chinese companies if it is unfairly damaged by a surge in imports – but unlike soaring tyre imports, most US shipments of Chinese-made textiles and apparel are falling as a result of the global and US economic downturn.

Trade expert Brenda Jacobs, an attorney at Sidley Austin LLP also points out that it’s hard to imagine any relief against Chinese imports would be useful because there are literally dozens of other foreign (mostly Asian) suppliers available to fill any void.

Which also means a reprisal of the safeguards wouldn’t save any US apparel jobs.

And with a track record that already includes a special three year textile safeguard and, before that, the 40-plus year quota program, new tariffs on apparel would be likely to harm larger US national economic interests. 

USA-ITA executive director Laura Jones adds that the whole point of the China safeguard is to give industry time to adjust to a surge in imports.

“After five decades, if there are any US fabric or apparel makers who haven’t adjusted by now, yet another bite at the protectionist apple isn’t going to give them new life,” she notes.

A special seminar being held on Friday 18 September at the USA-ITA offices in Washington DC to discuss 'What's Next for China Safeguard Measures?' Brenda Jacobs of Sidley Austin LLP will be guest speaker. Click here for more details.

ANALYSIS: New safeguard concerns hit US apparel sector


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