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S. Africa Textile Boost Draws Bipartisan Fire

July 30, 1986|SARA FRITZ and KAREN TUMULTY | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Republicans as well as Democrats on Tuesday condemned the Reagan Administration's decision to allow an increase in South African textile exports to the United States while resisting the pressure for new sanctions against the Pretoria government.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it is "hard to believe" that the Administration would make such trade concessions when Congress is preparing to impose economic sanctions against South Africa.

"It is not a good agreement, in my judgment," Lugar said.

The House already has approved legislation calling for tough sanctions against South Africa, and Lugar's committee is drafting a bill that is expected to include milder measures. White House officials have said that the President will agree to some sanctions, but only if they are forced on him by Congress.

Boosts Sanctions Drive

The textile agreement appeared to reinforce this growing pressure for stern measures against South Africa. Sen. Mack Mattingly (R-Ga.) said he will offer an amendment canceling the textile pact when the Senate considers sanctions early next month.

The textile agreement, signed June 27 by the office of U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter, would permit a 4% annual increase in textile imports, starting Sept. 1.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes said it was an attempt to protect import-battered American textile producers from even greater growth in South African sales to U.S. markets. "On balance, this agreement will help American producers," he said.

Speakes cited figures showing that imports of South African textiles increased by 139% last year. He also noted that the agreement is tentative and will not become formal until a memorandum of agreement is exchanged between the two governments.

South Africa exported 41 million square yards of textiles to the United States in 1984, and the amount soared to 98 million square yards last year--causing elimination of an estimated 9,800 U.S. jobs. It is estimated that a 4% increase would cost another 400 jobs.

'Shirt Off Our Back'

House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) denounced the textile agreement on grounds that it will undermine U.S. industry as well as aid the Pretoria regime. "It is bad enough to have the President's people say we should sell our souls for South African diamonds," he said. "We are now giving South Africa the shirt off our back."

"What this Administration is doing is taking away jobs at home, while it is providing economic fuel for the political engines of apartheid," said Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), who called the agreement "sheer lunacy."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) contended in a speech on the Senate floor that "no provision of U.S. law or our multilateral trade agreements required that we accept this surge (in textile imports from South Africa), or in fact, negotiate at all."

'A Favor' for Pretoria

"The Administration does South Africa a favor, sticks its finger in the eye of millions of U.S. textile workers and guarantees an increasing share of the U.S. market for South Africa," he added.

AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said he is shocked that the Administration chose to make concessions to South Africa on textiles, especially since the U.S. textile industry already has suffered "a major job loss" because of competition from imports.

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