U.S. consumers owe a debt of gratitude to the U.S. Association of Importers of Textile and Apparel. The USA-ITA is making sure shoppers continue to enjoy buying $12 cotton slacks and $15 blouses at their local discount store.

Association attorneys recently persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to defer consideration of the U.S. government's motion to lift a preliminary injunction on threat-based safeguard cases aimed at Chinese imports.

The deferral means no action is likely on the motion until early May and it could be later, according to textile manufacturing and labor groups that have been trying to bring the threat-based provisions into play since last fall.

“This decision severely imperils the chances for the threat cases to proceed in time for the U.S. textile industry to achieve meaningful relief from surging Chinese imports,” said the National Council of Textile Organizations' Cass Johnson. “It is a classic case of justice delayed is justice denied.”

The issue for attorneys for the USA-ITA and the manufacturers and labor revolves around the word “threat.” Last November, NCTO, the American Manufacturers Trade Action Committee and other groups filed petitions asking the government to impose safeguards based on the threat of a significant increase in Chinese exports after textile import quotas expired on Jan. 1.

The petitions would have limited the growth of Chinese imports to 7.5 percent above the amounts shipped by Chinese manufacturers in 2004.

USA-ITA attorneys sought an injunction from the U.S. Court of International Trade, arguing the government could not consider imposing safeguards on the possibility that China might increase its textile and apparel shipments.

The U.S. Court of International Trade issued the injunction on Dec. 30. Since quotas expired on Jan. 1, China's exports to the United States have soared by more than 1,000 percent in categories such as cotton trousers, according to the U.S. Office of Textile and Apparel.

That meant U.S. shoppers can continue to find ample numbers of low-priced slacks and blouses and other clothing at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and other retailers. But it also appears to be accelerating job losses in the U.S. textile manufacturing sector.

Leaders of the textile worker union UNITE HERE estimate the industry has lost 11,000 textile and manufacturing jobs since the end of December, brining the total to 378,000 since Jan. 2001.

“If the stay has been granted, the U.S. government could have provided relief by ruling on the threat-based petitions in a matter of days,” said the National Textile Association's Karl Spilhaus. “With no prospect of imminent relief coming from the courts, it is more imperative than ever that the U.S. government self-initiate safeguard cases in sensitive categories immediately.”

“The failure to issue a stay in the Federal Circuit will allow China to keep flooding our market with textile and apparel imports,” said AMTAC's Auggie Tantillo. “Any delay in imposing safeguards will give China a substantially higher baseline of imports on which growth limitations would be measured.”

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