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US lawmakers worried on Vietnam textiles in pact


US lawmakers worried on Vietnam textiles in pact

2 June 2011

WASHINGTON — More than 50 lawmakers voiced concern Wednesday about opening the US market to Vietnam’s textiles under a proposed Pacific Rim trade pact, saying the move would devastate the domestic industry.

Fifty-two members of the House of Representatives — ranging from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans — called for special rules on textiles as the United States and eight other nations negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the lawmakers said that Vietnam has the ability "to flood the US textile and apparel market" and little capacity to take in exports from the United States.

"If mismanaged, the TPP agreement could dramatically shift global trading patterns, displace critical US textile and apparel jobs and undermine important trade relationships in the Western Hemisphere that support nearly two million jobs," the letter said.

The lawmakers called on negotiators to consider reducing rather than ending tariffs and to require communist Vietnam to meet benchmarks on a market economy before enjoying the fruits of the free trade agreement.

They also sought vigorous customs enforcement, saying that Chinese producers had taken advantage of an earlier free trade agreement by setting up shop in Central American countries that enjoy a pact with the United States.

"These trade negotiations give us an opportunity to address the mistakes of the past and expand economic opportunities for our workers and businesses," said Representative Mike Michaud, a Democrat from Maine who signed the letter.

The TPP nations — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — have set a goal of reaching a framework deal in time for an Asia-Pacific summit in November in Hawaii.

President Barack Obama’s administration, which has faced opposition within the Democratic Party on trade, has billed the TPP as a new kind of agreement that protects labor rights and environmental standards.

But negotiators have encountered numerous disputes as they negotiate the ambitious agreement that includes highly diverse economies.