The Hong Kong and United States Governments will today launch a new phase of their joint operation to crack down on the export of illegal textiles. Six US customs officials will join two Hong Kong teams in a new round of visits to factories in Hong Kong. US customs officials will be authorised to question factory management and workers about shipments of textiles and apparel but will not be allowed to inspect records. Beth Ring, a partner with New York-based lawyers Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, said: 'As long as the textile quotas are in place there will be problems.' The powerful US textile lobby has successfully influenced the Government into taking action against alleged violations of the quota system. It alleges that billions of dollars of illegal textiles are flooding into the US from the mainland and other major exporters. Lobby groups have also launched civil actions against importers, such as that taken by the American Textile Manufacturers' Institute against The Limited. The trade body has threatened to take its action back to the courts after an earlier bid was overturned. In the US, importers of textiles and apparels are being hit by random verification inspections which can strand their goods at airports and wharves for weeks. The importers must be able to provide comprehensive details about how and where the goods were made. The details can extend to assembly records and factory workers' time sheets. This month's Hong Kong visit will focus on 12 categories covering cotton dresses, blouses, trousers, nightwear, man-made fibre dresses and skirts. US customs officials would not predict the outcome of the inspections but did not expect a toughening of documentation requirements imposed on importers. Customs said US officials will observe the operations of factories and are not expected to be directly involved in investigations of individual firms. The US-Hong Kong joint operation has been in force for more than two years. Ms Ring said: 'I would think this transshipment issue is going to continue. What they find in this new round of visits will be very telling in the future. 'If they are comfortable with the compliance levels then it is possible to expect some letting up. But that remains to be seen.' There are 19 companies on a US blacklist for violations of textile transshipment and country of origin rules. The three-year listing is only lifted if the company is not found guilty of additional breaches.