Importers are considering their options after the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill last week that instructs the administration to extend a Vietnam apparel monitoring program for a year and expand it to include apparel and textile imports from China.
"We're going to obviously oppose this strenuously," said Erik Autor, vice president and international trade counsel for the National Retail Federation. "We'll have to spend shoe leather lobbying against this and line up our allies [in Congress] to do that. We'll make sure we have a backstop in the Senate to keep this from moving forward."
Importers shipped a combined total of $36.9 billion worth of textiles and apparel made in Vietnam and China to the U.S. for the year ended April 30.
The Vietnam apparel monitoring program and Chinese quotas that have been in place on 34 categories of apparel and textile imports for three years are set to expire in six months. The Vietnam program was initiated to see whether goods were being sold in the U.S. below market value or the cost of manufacturing, known as dumping.
The Commerce Department has twice failed to find sufficient evidence to initiate a dumping case against products from Vietnam. A third review is scheduled this fall.
Despite the promise of fewer restrictions on apparel trade next year, importers have said they were wary of shifting production back to China, the world's largest supplier of apparel, because of the hit they took in 2005 when the Bush administration reached a three-year quota agreement with China, at the behest of the domestic textile industry. High inflation and rising costs in China have also made sourcing executives more dubious.
The U.S. textile industry has made restraining imports from China and Vietnam a top policy initiative and has hired a Washington-based law firm to explore its options. Textile groups are weighing such options as filing antidumping and subsidy cases against China, and enlisting the help of other countries to file a case against China at the World Trade Organization.