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US seek limits on China textile exports
Updated: 2005-08-16 14:08

American shoppers who enjoyed a sustained drop in clothing prices over the past year are likely to see markups on pants, shirts and dresses if the Bush administration gets China to agree to comprehensive limits on its clothing and textile exports, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

US seek limits on China textile exports
Female workers work at a textile factory in Dongguan, South China's Guangdong Province in this picture taken on August 1, 2005. [newsphoto]

Since a three-decade system of clothing and textile quotas expired Jan. 1, there has been a flood of clothing and textile imports entering the United States from China.

Those shipments are up 58 percent so far this year, an increase that has played a big part in pushing the cost of clothing down at an annual rate of 5.9 percent for the three months ending in June.

American textile and clothing manufacturers blame the import flood for the loss of 26,000 jobs so far this year and the closing of 19 textile plants. They want the administration to stop the losses by re-imposing quotas on Chinese goods.

U.S. and Chinese textile negotiators were scheduled Tuesday to begin two days of talks in San Francisco to see whether agreement can be reached.

Experts say America's annual clothing bill could rise $6 billion — or $20 for each U.S. consumer — if China agrees to restrain exports.

Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, said that could turn out to be a low estimate, given that China's massive production capacity also affects clothing makers in other countries.

"A comprehensive trade agreement would take the downward pressure off not only for American producers but for other countries as well," Hufbauer said.

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