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U.S. reimposes import quotas on China

Latest action targets some types of clothing, textiles

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration announced Thursday that it was reimposing import quotas on two types of Chinese clothing and textiles, intensifying trade tensions between the two nations in advance of a White House visit next week by China's president.

The administration said that it would limit imports of fabric made with synthetic filament threads as well as bras, girdles, panty girdles and corsets in response to a surge in shipments that have battered the U.S. industry.

The action was taken hours after U.S. and Chinese negotiators broke off an effort in Beijing to reach a comprehensive agreement covering all categories of U.S.-made clothing and textiles being disrupted by a surge in Chinese imports since global quotas were lifted on Jan. 1.

The administration announced it was extending until Oct. 1 a deadline for making decisions in four other cases covering sweaters, robes, knit fabric and wool trousers. The delay is an effort to pressure the Chinese to accept comprehensive limits or risk even more tight growth limits.

U.S. textile and clothing makers, who contend that a flood of Chinese imports has cost 26,000 jobs and forced 19 textile plants to close since the first of the year, praised the administration's action. They pledged to keep trying to re-impose quotas on several types of clothing and textiles until China agrees to a comprehensive deal.

According to the terms under which China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, the United States can re-impose quotas known as "safeguards" that limit import growth in covered categories to 7.5 percent per year.

"The U.S. textile industry will file as many safeguard cases as it takes to halt these job-killing trade practices," said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.

The administration in May began re-imposing quotas on several types of clothing to cope with a surge in Chinese imports that has pushed America's trade deficit with China 32 percent higher through the first six months of this year than during the same period in 2004.

Last year's deficit hit a record $162 billion, the largest imbalance ever recorded with a single country, and has greatly heightened trade tensions between the two countries.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit the White House for meetings with President Bush next Wednesday.

A number of U.S. lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would impose across-the-board tariffs of 27.5 percent on Chinese imports as retaliation for what American manufacturers believe is China's manipulation of its currency to gain advantage over U.S. products.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a sponsor of the measure, told reporters Thursday, "There are areas where China plays by the rules and areas where they don't."

American retailers have complained the imposition of quotas will raise clothing prices for U.S. consumers. China has reached its limit in several clothing categories, leaving retailers to scramble for other suppliers.

The U.S. announced the new quotas after unsuccessful negotiations over three days in Beijing aimed at forging a comprehensive agreement to limit imports. U.S. officials said they would schedule a third round of negotiations soon. The Bush administration had hoped an agreement could be reached before Hu's visit next week.