Related Event: Textile Trade Disputes
The Bush administration on Wednesday reported progress in talks this week with China on an agreement to limit the amount of Chinese clothing and textile products coming into the U.S.
The negotiations in Washington from Sunday through Tuesday produced "substantial progress on a large number of issues," David Spooner, the administration's special textile negotiator said in a statement. "We look forward to meeting again soon."
In contrast, after the previous negotiating session in Beijing, the U.S. side expressed disappointment at a failure to narrow differences.
The latest round, the fifth since August, was held without any advance public notice.
U.S. textile industry officials said Wednesday they had not received any briefings on this week's talks; some viewed the secrecy as a hopeful sign the two sides might be nearing a deal.
"From my experience in Washington, the quieter things are, that means progress is being made or they are close to a resolution," said Lloyd Wood, a spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.
Washington and Beijing are trying for a comprehensive agreement to impose limits on Chinese imports in all categories of U.S.-made clothing and textiles that have been disrupted by a surge in Chinese imports since global quotas were lifted on Jan. 1.
The U.S. industry contends the Chinese import surge has cost thousands of U.S. jobs and forced 19 textile plants to close just since the first of this year.
American companies have petitioned the administration to reimpose quotas on a case-by-case basis covering individual categories of clothing. But such "safeguard" quotas must be renewed each year.
The U.S. industry would prefer a broad deal, through 2008, that limits imports of goods in all textile and clothing categories that have been threatened by Chinese imports.
On the issue of safeguard quotas, the administration announced late Wednesday that it had reached agreement with China to re-impose quotas limiting Chinese imports of socks. That quota had expired last week and the U.S. industry has petitioned for it to be reinstated.
"By re-imposing quotas on sock imports from China, the administration is maintaining the status quo for our domestic sock manufacturers," Spooner said. "It would simply be unfair to our sock producers if ¡ª in the midst of these negotiations ¡ª we permitted a safeguard to lapse."
Meanwhile, the inter-agency administration panel that is ruling on the industry's safeguard petitions announced late Wednesday that it was extending until Nov. 8 decisions on whether to re-impose quotas on shirts and blouses, skirts, pajamas and swimwear. Decisions in those cases had been due on Tuesday.
U.S. trade officials refused to discuss the areas where progress was made. They declined to say when the next round of talks might be held.
With President Bush scheduled to visit China in mid-November, there was speculation both sides were seeking to wrap up the negotiations so a deal could be reached during his visit.
The administration is struggling to show progress in lowering a ballooning trade deficit with China. Last year it hit a record $162 billion; so far this year it is running 30 percent above the 2004 pace.