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US Imposes New Quotas on Fabric Imports from China - 2003-11-19

The U.S. decision to impose new quotas on certain fabrics and clothing imported from China has sparked anger among Hong Kong business leaders. Many of the city's trading companies export Chinese textiles to the United States. The news of the quotas on knit fabric, dressing gowns and bras prompted criticism from Hong Kong traders that supply U.S. retailers with those goods.

Cliff Sun is the chairman of the Hong Kong Exporters Association. Mr. Sun says the quota is "radical and unfair" - adding that the United States will continue to protect its domestic industries regardless of its commitments to international trade agreements.

Washington announced the quotas Tuesday in response to a request by its domestic textile industry. The move is the latest in a series of actions aimed at confronting Beijing over its ballooning trade surplus with the United States, which hit a record high of $103 billion last year.

In contrast to many Hong Kong traders, Dickson Ho of the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council says that the new quota will have a limited impact. "I believe the overall impact on the Hong Kong will be very small because these items are not considered to be the hot items such as T-shirts, jeans and underwear," he says. "And those items will only be liberalized and removed from the quota list in 2005."

China's commerce minister on Wednesday says he opposed the U.S. decision and hinted that China might impose retaliatory measures. The U.S. textile manufacturers claim an influx of cheaper products from China has hurt their industry and cost American jobs.

The quota comes under a special trade provision put forward by the United States as China was vying for entry into World Trade Organization. China agreed to the conditions to gain WTO membership two years ago.