Banging the Drum on China

NEW YORK — The chorus of voices complaining about China's trade practices has grown in recent months to include a diverse range of labor activists,...

with contributions from John Zarocostas

"The key thing to remember is that China has been very suppressed by quotas," he said. "In a free market, China's share of apparel ... would be significant."

Haugen also noted that placing safeguards on China will mostly result in those orders being shifted to other Asian countries, particularly India and Indonesia, rather than back to the U.S.

ITG's Ross concurred: "I don't believe that, whatever is done by way of safeguards, is going to create any incremental jobs in the U.S."

In addition to its manufacturing operations in the U.S., where it employs more than 5,500 workers, ITG has been expanding its presence overseas and recently established its first manufacturing operation in China.

"China is going to be the world's next big player in textiles," Ross said. "Therefore, if we wish to be a major player globally, we're going to have to be there."

While the pragmatic approach is increasingly common in the industry, some textile executives continue to ask whether the U.S. is allowing China to take advantage of free-trade rules.

"The potential for unfair disruption is definitely in our future," said Avondale's Hull. "If anybody believes that China is not trying to manage their trade position, they're very naive."

However flawed the relationship, most experts conclude that the economies of the U.S. and China have become so interdependent that both sides must tread carefully on trade.

"To blame China for our trade imbalance is incorrect," said Deloitte's Kalish. "To criticize their currency policy is to misunderstand the fact that they are cheaply funding out deficit."

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