Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Bush administration said yesterday that it would discuss a comprehensive agreement to limit imports of clothing and fabric from China, a potential reprieve for U.S. manufacturers and a step to smooth trade relations with China.
U.S. imports of some Chinese products - such as cotton socks, shirts and pants - have increased in volume by more than 1000 percent since Jan. 1, when a global system of quotas expired.
U.S. producers say the flood of Chinese imports is costing jobs and ruining companies, and they have filed a series of petitions to limit specific products. The administration has responded to seven petitions with import caps this year, helping manufacturers but creating uncertainty for importers and retailers, and irritating China.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said yesterday that the administration would "engage in substantive discussions with our domestic textile and apparel industries and members of Congress on whether there is interest in a broader textile agreement with China."
China appears willing to negotiate some trade limits.
"On the issue of China-U.S. textile trade, China is ready to have dialogue with the U.S. in an earnest and open way," said Lu Jianhua, director general of China's Department of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce.
U.S. industry and political leaders also say they want a broad agreement.
"I cannot stress to you how critical it is to reduce these damaging Chinese surges to help protect our domestic textile industry and its work force," Rep. Robin Hayes, North Carolina …