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Battling the China Surge: U.S. Stems Import Tide With Safeguard Quotas

The U.S. move to impose fresh quotas on Chinese imports was welcomed by the textile industry, while importers criticized the action.

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"It's a response to political pressure as opposed to reality," said Wendy Wieland Martin, vice president of international trade services at Kellwood Co. "The administration wants CAFTA and I don't know how there can't be a direct link. None of these actions are isolated. That is the real world."

She said the increase in imports of knit tops to the U.S. from all countries was 8 percent based on the last 12 months.

"I don't care if China increases 2,000 percent because if you put it into the whole pie, that is part of less than an 8 percent increase overall and that is hardly market disruption," Martin said.

The company has less than 30 percent of its production in China, sourced in 40 countries last year and still maintains vendor relationships in many of those nations, she added.

"This is not going to hurt Kellwood," she said. "Did we hold something back that might have gone to China, as a precaution? Probably."

The connection with CAFTA wasn't seen by all, though.

"I'm sure other people see that link, but I don't see that expressly," said Mark Jaeger, vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Jockey International.

Jockey has a balanced sourcing model in the Caribbean, Asia and the U.S., and would not be adversely impacted by the safeguard quotas on China, he said.

"We've been watching closely how much to put into China and we've been holding back on placing growth business into China," he said.

"Quotas are never likely to cease, but change over time," said Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer at the Dallas Market Center and Market Center Management Co., which manages the sprawling Shanghai Mart, a permanent trade center in China.

— With contributions from Kristi Ellis, Washington, and Rusty Williamson, Dallas

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