Two textile-state senators cleared the way on Friday for the Senate to vote on a trade deal with Vietnam after the Bush administration promised to act if that country floods the US market with cheap clothing.
“I am very pleased that we were able… to come up with a solution that will allow our industry to defend itself against unfair and harmful trade practices by Vietnam,” Sen. Elisabeth Dole, a North Carolina Republican, said in a statement.
However, US importers condemned the agreement, which they said set a terrible precedent and endangered the benefits both countries would receive from the trade deal.
“If Vietnam is not shipping apparel, it’s number one export to the US market, and if thousands of workers are thrown out of work, it’s clear Vietnam is not going to be able to afford our agricultural products and insurance,” said Laura Jones, executive director of the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.
The agreement clears a major obstacle to a Senate vote on a bill establishing permanent normal trade relations with Hanoi. Dole and Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), a South Carolina Republican, had placed a “hold” on the bill because of textile concerns, but said on Friday they were lifting that now.
But it appeared unlikely the Senate would approve the Vietnam bill before lawmakers go home this weekend until after the November 7 congressional elections.
The House of Representatives also is expected to vote on the bill after it returns in six weeks.
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Commerce Secretary
Carlos Gutierrez promised Dole to regularly monitor imports of clothing and other textile items from Vietnam.
The Bush administration also will launch an investigation to impose anti-dumping duties on the Vietnamese goods if it sees evidence of unfair pricing that is materially injuring US textile producers, they said in a letter.