The US government is considering a request from hosiery manufacturers to slap quotas on imports of Chinese-made socks. A final decision, which could lead to a new round of protectionism in the US sock industry, is expected in mid-October, just weeks before the country’s presidential election.
The US Commerce Department’s Committee for Implementation of Textile Agreements announced on Wednesday it “has determined that the request contains the information required to consider the request.”
The Hosiery Association, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Council of Textile Organizations, and the National Textile Association filed the complaint on June 28. It requested limits on cotton, wool and synthetic fiber sock imports from China.
The petition seeks measures similar to those won by US bra, dressing gown and knitted fabric manufacturers last November.
US manufacturers have requested that sock import growth be limited to 7.5 percent. If the petition is granted, US and Chinese representatives may negotiate another figure.
China exported a total of 770 million pairs of socks, up 4 percent, with a total value of 1.5 billion yuan (US$182.6 million), a rise of 9 percent, from January to April.
In a compromise during its entry into the WTO in late 2001, China agreed that other WTO members could launch special safeguard measures against textile imports that could cause market disruption.
The sock issue is the latest in a series of disputes between China and the United States, which has already targeted Chinese furniture, lingerie, television sets and shrimp.
The current situation increases Chinese textile exporters' concerns that more counter-import measures will be aimed at China after global multifiber textile quotas expire in 2005.
Analysts have urged textile makers and exporters to remain alert and not be over-optimistic about business opportunities in the post-quota era, warning that all types of trade barriers may increase after the quotas are eliminated.
Although Sino-US trade is increasing at a brisk pace, the looming US presidential election means that it is encountering greater friction and disputes, analysts say.
(China Daily July 23, 2004)