Coauthored by Elliot J. Feldman and John J. Burke

The last of the quotas on textile and clothing imported into the United States from the developing world expired at the end of 2008 with the end of the quotas authorized by China’s Protocol of Accession to the WTO. Notwithstanding the end of the quotas, trade in textiles and clothing remains distorted by a web of bilateral agreements that give preferential access to the U.S. market on a quasi colonial basis. Dr. Elliot J. Feldman discussed these issues in a speech he gave on November 3, 2009 to a meeting of the Private Sector Consulting Committee of the International Textiles And Clothing Bureau entitled Rags To Riches To Rags? Textile Trade Policy In The United States After The Quotas.

Dr. Feldman noted in a speech (Part I & Part II) given on September 20, 2008 to the Chinese National Textile Association, Shandong Province Textile Industry Association and the Zaozhuang City Government, that U.S. textile companies would face substantial obstacles in filing trade remedy actions against textiles imports. Whether for the reasons he offered then, or for reasons related to the global recession, no trade remedy actions have been filed to date against textile or apparel imports into the United States. It is prudent to remain vigilant. Cases may still come. If they do, however, they are likely to be narrow and targeted.

Our prediction that significant trade remedy disputes over clothing and textiles are not likely with the United States is based on the organization and structure of American government as much as it is on the nature of the merchandise. The United States federal government has three branches, reasonably balanced and offsetting one another. The power to negotiate trade agreements rests with the President, but only Congress can pass the necessary legislation to implement them. Each house of Congress is divided into many committees.

Two committees, one in each house, control international trade, the Finance Committee in the Senate, and the Ways & Means Committee in the House of Representatives. These committees are also the tax writing committees. For various reasons, the Congressmen and Senators most interested in tax-writing tend to come from rural states with small populations. U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing tends to be concentrated in the more populous states, such as California, New York, New Jersey, Georgia and North Carolina. Hence, in the current Congress, at least, textile and apparel interests are not well-positioned to influence laws and policy with respect to international trade.

Notwithstanding over 30 years of quotas, the U.S. apparel industries declined drastically as production was shifted to lower cost countries, such as China, and countries that benefited from special trade preference agreements with the United States. These industries have declined to the point where, except for certain niche products, it would be hard to find a U.S. industry left with the standing to file a trade remedy case against apparel imports. The U.S. textile industry would like to restrict imports of apparel from countries such as China and Vietnam, because those imports compete with apparel made with U.S. textiles in countries that have entered into preferential trade agreements with the United States. However, the textile industry does not have standing to file trade remedy cases against apparel imports.

The U.S. textile industry would like to restrict imports from countries such as China because Chinese imports interfere with a quasi colonial strategy they have worked out with U.S. apparel companies. The strategy is simple. The capital intensive textile producers sell their products into regions subject to special agreements, originating with the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, the Andean Trade Preference Act, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The countries subject to the agreements receive textiles and raw materials from the United States duty-free and return them in the form of finished goods to the United States, which imports them duty-free provided they contain raw materials from the United States. The United States thus effectively incorporates cheap labor offshore, preserving the capital intensive industry. The WTO waived on all of these agreements, permitting the discriminatory preferences regarding American content, in May 2009.

The looming question is whether China can penetrate with textiles the markets the United States has insulated through the duty-free provisions for apparel made from U.S. fabric and yarn. So far, however, China has not shown much interest in this direction, content to intensify capital investment at home while also relying at home on the labor intensive process of making finished products. Because the U.S. arrangements are based on regional trade agreements recognized by the WTO, there are limits on what other competing countries can do. They can seek their own bilateral agreements with the United States, of course, asking for the same terms as applied to the NAFTA, CAFTA, and Andean countries. They might focus on reconsideration of these privileged relationships by targeting tariff reductions in the Doha Round, but the Round already is paralyzed by agricultural issues. Expiration of the Multifiber Arrangement meant the end of quotas, but it has turned out not to mean global free trade.
 

限制发展中国家纺织服装制品出口到美国的配额制度终于在2008年底结束,这是中国入世协定规定的。虽然配额制度已经结束,但是纺织服装贸易仍被建立在类似殖民主义基础之上、给予某些国家进入美国市场特殊优惠政策的双边协议编制的巨网所扭曲。费德门博士在2009年11月3日召开的国际纺织服装局企业界磋商委员会会议上做了题为《Rags To Riches To Rags? Textile Trade Policy In the United States After The Quotas》的演讲,探讨了这些问题。

费德门博士早在2008年9月20日对中国纺织协会、山东省纺织工业协会和枣庄市政府的演讲中就提到:美国的纺织企业如果想对进口纺织产品递交贸易救济申诉将面临很多难题。不管是根据他当时的解释,还是因为全球经济衰退,美国企业至今尚未递交针对纺织或服装产品的贸易救济申诉。谨慎起见,仍应保持警觉。因为仍有可能有新的案件发生。一旦发生,案件涉及面狭窄且将针对特定产品。

我们预测就纺织服装与美国发生重大贸易救济纠纷不太可能,这是建立在美国政府组织结构和这一类产品特性上的推断。美国中央政府有三大分支,相互制约平衡。总统拥有谈判贸易协定的权利,但只有国会才能通过必要法案实施这些协定。参众两院又包括许多委员会。

参众两院各有一个委员会负责国际贸易,分别为参议院金融委员会和众议院筹款委员会。这两个委员会也负责制定税收法案。因为许多原因,对税收事务感兴趣的参议员和众议员大都来自人口稀少的农业州。美国纺织服装生产大都集中在人口密集的州,如加利福尼亚、纽约、新泽西、乔治亚和北卡罗来纳州。因此,纺织服装利益集团基本不能就国际贸易法和政策影响本届国会。

虽然配额制度存在30多年,但是美国服装产业还是迅速萎缩,服装生产转移至中国等生产成本较低的国家,或是和美国签订特殊贸易优惠协定的国家。美国本土产业退缩至这一地步:除了一些特定产品,美国产业已无法达到法律规定的规模可针对进口服装递交申诉。美国纺织行业希望能限制中国、越南等国的服装出口到美国,因为这些产品将与已经和美国签订优惠贸易协定的国家生产的、用美国纺织品为原料的服装产生竞争。但是根据法律规定,纺织行业不能要求对进口服装展开贸易救济调查。

美国纺织行业希望限制中国等国的出口,因为中国产品妨碍它们和美国纺织企业联合制定的这一后殖民主义战略。这一战略非常简单。资金密集的纺织企业将产品出口至《加勒比海贸易伙伴法》、《加勒比海经济复兴法》、《非洲发展和机会法》等法案覆盖的国家。根据法律规定,这些国家免税从美国进口纺织品和原材料,然后再免税向美国出口利用美国原料制成的服装制品。这样,美国既可确保廉价海外劳动力,又可保存资金密集的纺织业。但是中国却对这一方向不感兴趣,中国对加强本土投资、同时依赖本土劳动力密集的优势生产终端产品深感满意。由于美国的协议是世贸组织承认的地区贸易协议,其他国家并不能采取更多行动。他们可寻求与美国签订双边协定,要求享受和北美自由贸易区、中美洲自由贸易区国家相同的待遇。他们首先可利用多哈会谈减少关税,但是会谈因农业问题已经瘫痪。《多边纺织协定》过期意味着配额制度的结束,但是这并不意味自由贸易的到来。

(翻译:朱晶)