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During a news conference in Greensboro, N.C., Ross said he was merging Burlington Industries and Cone Mills into a new entity called International Textile Group. In a sign that the first word of the new name is no rhetorical flourish, Ross also revealed that he’s headed to China next week.
While he offered few details about his plans for the trip, he said he intended “to discuss a whole range of topics with folks there and to try to see what opportunities there are that make some sense and are consistent with our overall objectives.”
Those objectives clearly include the growing threat from China in the runup to the phaseout of all textile and apparel quotas on Jan. 1 among World Trade Organization countries. And in a week when the nation’s largest union promised to make the threat from China an issue in the presidential campaign and filed a Section 301 complaint, Ross weighed in on behalf of the industry’s management.
“The textile industry as a whole in my opinion is not remotely ready for the lifting of quotas altogether,” he said. “I believe that something approaching 600,000 jobs are very much at issue, mostly in the South, if the quotas just came off 100 percent on Jan. 1. I can’t imagine either presidential candidate would be in favor of losing 600,000 jobs.”
Ross on Wednesday did not address the AFL-CIO’s filing of its Section 301 petition calling on the U.S. to limit Chinese imports in response to unfair labor conditions, including lax enforcement of minimum-wage laws. However, in a Monday interview on the subject, he said, “There’s no question they have been artificially holding [wages] down.”
As noted, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Textile Manufacturers Institute said Tuesday that they plan to file a second 301 petition over China’s currency, which the organizations claim are artificially supported.
Ross has also been lobbying on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Initially, he was one of the few voices in the U.S. textile industry to back the current CAFTA proposal, but last month he raised concerns that it would become a loophole to allow more non-U.S. fabrics into the regional trading area.