China Lashes Out at U.S. Over Textiles

Wednesday, August 31, 2005; 4:13 AM

BEIJING -- China's government-run media lashed out Wednesday at U.S. efforts to limit imports of low-cost Chinese textiles as negotiators from the two sides met to try to settle the dispute.

"Trade protectionism has incurred huge costs for Chinese textile producers," the government's China Daily newspaper said in its lead editorial. "Protectionism is a loss-loss deal for both sides in international trade while undermining the global effort to build a free and fair trade order."

Chinese textile exports have soared since a worldwide quota system expired on Jan. 1. Washington has already imposed temporary quotas limiting growth in imports of some Chinese textiles to 7.5 percent a year, but U.S. clothing manufacturers want broader limits.

The chief U.S. negotiator, David Spooner, said earlier that Washington had presented Beijing with a proposal to cover all items now protected by safeguard agreements plus any categories that might be affected in the future by imports from China.

The American limits would last through 2008.

His talks with Chinese Commerce Ministry officials entered a second day Wednesday.

Beijing argues that developed countries like the United States should focus on high-tech, big-money goods like airplanes and not try to stymie Chinese production of low-cost items like socks and underwear.

It also says that limits on Chinese goods would force U.S. consumers to pay more for clothing.

U.S. clothing manufacturers say the flood of cheap Chinese goods since the beginning of this year have forced 19 U.S. plants to close and resulted in 26,000 lost jobs.

But talks have yet to reach the make-or-break stage, said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, who was in Beijing on Wednesday.

The aim: "Either get a good agreement or no agreement," he said.

If no agreement is reached, U.S. manufacturers will continue to rely on the safeguard system which allows them to petition the U.S. government on a case-by-case basis for limits if imports are seen to be threatening American industry, he said.

The dispute is politically sensitive at a time of soaring U.S. trade deficits with China, which last year hit $162 billion _ an all-time record high with any country.