In a possible sign that anti-trade forces may be gaining steam, Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to start tracking and reporting data on Chinese textile imports.

Rangel said he was concerned Chinese textile exports to the United States will surge after an existing agreement with the country expires Dec. 31, 2008. The request follows the European Commission’s decision last month to consider whether duties on footwear imported from China and Vietnam should be extended.


While British retailers have condemned the review as anti-consumer, a confederation of European footwear manufacturers have threatened to take legal action to ensure the duties are extended. The European Commission has imposed 16.5% import duties on leather shoes from China and 10% duty on those from Vietnam since October 2006.

“Monitoring Chinese textile imports will help provide the Committee with timely, accurate information to assess whether Chinese imports are causing or are threatening to cause market disruption in the United States and in developing countries,” Rangel said in a statement released last week. “While the Administration does not appear to be taking this concern seriously, the Committee on Ways and Means has a clear interest in and a responsibility to address this issue and, if warranted after reviewing the data, prevent harm to American workers, industry and communities.”

In a letter to the ITC, Rangel wrote that there was wide concern in Congress and among American textile and apparel producers that Chinese exports would surge as they did when quotas were eliminated on Dec. 31, 2004. In the first six months of 2005, imports of cotton trousers from China increased 1,800%, or to 17.5 million dozen from 918,000 dozen in the first six months of 2004, while the price of those imports fell by 50%.