Cotton Belt congressional members joined their colleagues and the U.S. cotton and textile industry in a call to broaden a key textile import monitoring program.

With the strong support of the National Cotton Council, textile associations and a labor union, 73 U.S. congressmen led by Textile Caucus co-chairs Howard Coble, R-N.C., and John Spratt, D-S.C., sent a letter on Sept. 26 to President Bush urging his administration to extend and expand the Textile Monitoring Program to cover U.S. textile and apparel imports from China beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the first day following the expiration of a U.S.-China textile bilateral agreement signed in 2005.

The TMP currently monitors U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam for illegal dumping.

The National Cotton Council also joined 10 textile and fiber industry trade associations and the labor union Unite Here in a letter Sept. 28 to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab making the same request.

“U.S. cotton is encouraged by this bipartisan congressional support for stronger trade enforcement,” said NCC Chairman Larry McClendon, a Marianna, Ark., producer and ginner. “Excessive textile and apparel imports disrupt the market and pose a threat to our industry.”

The expiration of Chinese safeguards next year has raised grave concerns among the U.S. textile sectors and its workers, as well as the U.S. preference partners in the CAFTA and African countries that rely on domestic components. To underscore this point, earlier this month, 17 international textile and apparel organizations sent letters to Gutierrez, Schwab and the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. Senate Finance and the U.S. House Ways and Means committees urging the extension and expansion of the TMP.

Concerns about dumping are not unwarranted, as the expiration of quotas in 2005 resulted in a 40 percent price drop on and a nearly 600 percent volume increase of U.S. textile and apparel imports from China, severely disrupting the market. This led the U.S. government to impose safeguards on numerous categories of U.S. textile and apparel imports from China, which in turn, encouraged the United States and China to negotiate the bilateral agreement that expires at year’s end.