Authorities fear flood of synthetic textiles after quotas are lifted The United States government will consider imposing 'safeguard' quotas on synthetic fabric from China as fears of a Chinese textile import flood mount before the World Trade Organisation-mandated abolition of global textile quotas next month. The US Department of Commerce on Wednesday accepted a petition from the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Council of Textile Organisations, the National Textile Association and US labour union Unite Here, which claimed cheap Chinese synthetic fabrics threatened intolerable disruption to the US textile industry. The department's Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements will decide within 90 days whether to limit the annual growth of Chinese synthetic fabric imports to 7.5 per cent for one year. WTO rules allow the US to impose one-year 'safeguard' quotas on import categories if a surge in imports causes market 'disruption'. Previously, the US government imposed special quotas on Chinese apparel items, such as brassieres, based on market data showing a significant impact on domestic industries. The US government started considering 'threat-based' quotas on Chinese garments only in the run-up to the US presidential election last month. Including synthetic fabrics, there are now eight categories of textile imports under review for safeguard quotas based on a threat of disruption rather than their actual impact. Other targeted imports include cotton yarn, cotton trousers, cotton knit shirts, non-knit shirts, man-made fibre shirts and man-made fibre trousers. In all eight cases, the actual Chinese share of the respective US import categories was well below 10 per cent of the total. China accounted for just 2.2 per cent of US imports of synthetic fibre, according to official US data. Dozens of big US retailers, including JC Penney and Liz Claiborne, have filed suit to stop the Bush administration from moving forward on the 'threat-based' safeguard quotas. 'The US textile industry is focused more on electoral disruption and not so much market disruption,' American Apparel & Footwear Association president Kevin Burke said in Hong Kong last month. China was the 22nd largest supplier of cotton trousers to the US, accounting for a tiny 1.3 per cent of US imports, Mr Burke pointed out. 'Most people do not realise that from 2000 to [this year], US fabric exports to China jumped from US$74 million to US$210 million - a surge of more than 280 per cent,' Mr Burke said. 'It is a good thing China does not have the ability to impose safeguard quotas on its imports of US textiles.' Quota advocates point out, however, that China's share of US imports of baby garments shot up from 6.4 per cent in 2001 to 44.3 per cent last year after quotas on the category were lifted.