WASHINGTON — Imports of Chinese-made sweaters, shirts and other clothing and textiles will be limited to 3% growth a year under a U.S.-Chinese agreement announced Saturday. Textile industry spokesmen said that is too much.
U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter hailed the four-year pact as the final step in a solution to import surges of cloth and clothing that have brought objections from the U.S. textile industry and a move in Congress to restrict all textile, apparel and shoe imports.
China this year became the largest exporter of cloth and clothing to the United States, with growth of about 19% over last year.
The agreement to cut back to 3% follows pacts signed last year with Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan to limit their export growth to 1% annually. Increases for the region, which accounts for half of U.S. cloth and clothing imports, will now average about 1.5% a year, Yeutter's office said.
The textile industry wanted a similar 1% agreement with China, but a Yeutter spokesman said several factors had to be considered, including the history of U.S.-Chinese trade and the relatively poor economic conditions in China.
Robert G. Laidlaw, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said the pact will cost U.S. jobs.
"This means that China, our largest supplier, will continue to take an even larger share of our market, and U.S. workers will continue to lose jobs to the Chinese," Laidlaw said in a statement. The textile and clothing industry employs nearly 2 million workers.
"The Administration has sent a clear signal that the import problem will continue and the textile and apparel trade deficit will worsen," Laidlaw said, urging approval of a bill in Congress to further restrict textile imports.
The Reagan Administration opposes the bill, which would allow worldwide textile imports to grow at only 1% a year. The heavily lobbied bill was passed by the House but not with the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto. The Senate is also expected to approve it.