New Manufacturing Trade Group Forms In Washington;
Textile Industry Coalesces Behind Common Threat of Chinese Imports
Top executives from the nation's largest textile and apparel companies and trade associations met in Washington, D.C., on June 10 at a "summit" to formulate an aggressive public relations and government lobbying campaign against surging imports from China.
Board members of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Committee (AMTAC), a recently reformulated lobbying group with a growing membership, expressed grave concern over Chinese import trends and the staggering loss of U.S. jobs. Textile and apparel imports from China increased by 140 percent between March 2002 and March 2003, the biggest increase in history, says AMTAC. The average growth in 29 categories of apparel in which quotas have disappeared is at least 600 percent, according to the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. The U.S. apparel industry alone has lost 33 percent of its workforce since January 2001. During that period, 267,000 jobs have disappeared in textiles and apparel, or 26 percent of total employment. There has been no response from the U.S. government.
"We've gotten enough commitments and excuses to last us a lifetime," says Lloyd Wood of AMTAC. "What we need is results."
What's happening in the textile and apparel industries will occur in all other manufacturing sectors, says AMTAC board member Roger Milliken, CEO of Milliken Co. of Spartanburg, S.C. As a result, AMTAC is growing beyond its roots in apparel and textiles.
Until March of this year, AMTAC was called the American Textile Trade Action Coalition, but organizers saw a niche to represent other manufacturing industries impacted by imports. AMTAC was further galvanized by the trade agreement signed with Vietnam in April. "The Vietnam deal created a gold rush mentality: come to the United States, the USTR is giving away the candy story," says Wood.
Companies in the corrugated metals, plastics, tool and die, furniture and the wood products industries have joined AMTAC, which is adding staff members and lobbyists. The group does not believe the National Association of Manufacturers is able to represent the interests of small- and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers on trade matters."They know their bread is buttered by the people who don't want to see anything done about China," says Wood. "But the bulk of their small members are getting killed by China. We know what will happen when push comes to shove: the man with the gold rules -- the golden rule. So we're going to try to do whatever we can."
At a recent meeting in Milwaukee on the issue of manufactured imports, AMTAC's new outreach director Jim Schollaert, formerly chief of the textile trade division at the Department of State, was expecting 200 attendees but had to turn away 800. "If that's not a sign of the revolution going on out there in the grass roots, then I don't know what is," says Wood. "You can feel the sea-change in the hinterlands."
The trade dispute with China could erupt into a more global phenomenon. U.S. workers will lose their jobs, but so will workers in nations whose exports are being replaced by those from China. Prices of Chinese textiles to the U.S. have declined by 44 percent over the past year (from $5.79 per square yard to $3.24 per square yard) in 29 apparel categories that were removed from quota control in January 2002. However, prices for the "rest of the world" have only declined 2 percent to $3.47 per square yard. In the meantime, imports from China have increased 412 percent, from 142 million square meters to 554 million square meters, while imports from the rest of the world have declined 201 percent. (See ATMI's Web site at www.atmi.org.)
In a product category such as luggage, China's imports have increased 664 percent over the past 15 months, and the country now controls 78 percent of the U.S. market. At the same time, shipments of luggage to the United States from Mexico have declined by 58 percent; from Thailand by 48 percent; from the Philippines by 54 percent; and from the Dominican Republic by 50 percent. The same situation exists in dressing gowns, brassieres, gloves and other categories of products.
"Slowly but surely, the folks in the rest of the world are recognizing that China is a problem for them and that they may lose a significant chunk of their business," says Wood. "People are realizing that the stakes are a lot higher than they thought."
At the June 10 summit, the AMTAC leaders agreed to work together on submitting new safeguard petitions to the federal government on Chinese imports. They will also initiate a lobbying effort to concentrate on preventing Chinese goods from unfairly taking advantage of regional free-trade agreements now being negotiated, particularly the proposed Central America agreement.
AMTAC is especially irritated by the federal government's recently published procedures that implement a special safeguard to protect the United States textile industry from cheap imports from China. The procedures, required as part of the WTO Accession Agreement that admitted China into the WTO, have taken six years to develop and were published 18 months after China was admitted into the WTO.
"The inexcusable delay on the part of our government has already resulted in enormous damage to the U.S. textile industry and its workers," says AMTAC Washington Coordinator Augustine Tantillo. "The U.S. domestic textile industry began asking early last year that this special safeguard mechanism be invoked against surges in several specific textile categories, but the answer has always been to wait until the procedures are published," says Tantillo, who served as deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for textiles, apparel and consumer goods during the first Bush administration. "The executive branch highlighted the textile safeguard as a key selling point in the China WTO accession debate. The U.S. textile industry was told that this safeguard would prevent China's ability to surge into the U.S. market and displace U.S. jobs. However, since China's admittance to the WTO, the Bush administration has done nothing to stem the massive surge of textile imports."
A good example of surging apparel imports is in the category of socks. From March 2002 to March 2003, imports of socks from China increased by 800 percent, from one million dozen pair to 8.5 million dozen pair. "Many of these companies are owned and operated by the People's Liberation Army," says Tantillo. "It's time for action."
The Following Executives Participated in the "Textile Summit" Held June 10, 2003, in Washington, D.C.
American Textile Manufacturers Institute:
American Yarn Spinners Association:
National Cotton Council:
National Textile Association:
American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition:
American Fiber Manufacturers Association:
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