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CITA's action came after a self-initiated review begun in April and will result in limiting imports in the three categories to a 7.5 percent increase, based on the volume in the last 12 months. For the first three months of the year, imports of cotton trousers from China shot up 1,573 percent to 101.2 million square meters, according to government data. Cotton knit shirts and blouses jumped 1,277 percent to 42.8 million SME, while cotton underwear rose 307.2 percent to 60.6 million SME.
China agreed to the possibility of such constraints, known as safeguards, when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. The 30-year global quota system ended on Jan. 1 among WTO member countries after a 10-year phaseout. The European Union is also considering fresh restrictions on Chinese imports and Turkey and Brazil have imposed safeguard quotas on certain goods from China in recent months.
CITA moved quickly to impose the safeguards, waiting just four days to act after the 30-day comment period for the cases ended May 9. CITA will request consultations with China by the end of the month, which would then be held within 30 days. The two governments have 90 days from the time of the request to find a way to ease the market disruption or safeguards will remain in effect for the rest of the year.
"They're rushing to put quotas in place and we're very disappointed," said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel. "The real losers are going to the consumers, since the early imposition of safeguards will merely push up prices."
Rather than helping U.S. industry, Hughes said it would be other Asian suppliers that would benefit from additional orders when China imports hit their ceiling.
Representatives of the domestic textile industry, which has filed petitions for safeguards on several other categories, said U.S. jobs depended on the action.
"The unprecedented surge of Chinese imports imperiled tens of thousands of jobs," Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said in a statement.
The U.S. textile industry has closed 18 plants and lost 17,000 jobs since quotas were dropped.