U.S. Puts Trade Limits on Chinese Textile Imports

Alex Chadwick talks with U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez about new U.S. trade restrictions on China. A federal task force announced new trade limits on Chinese textile imports. Many observers say Chinese imports have been flooding the U.S. market since global quotas were lifted at the beginning of this year.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Earlier this week a government task force, led by the Commerce Department, announced new quotas on Chinese clothing imported to the United States, this for the second time in five days. These are cotton shirts, blouses and trousers and underwear and some cotton yarn. Today China says it's going to begin posing internal tariffs on these products. It looks as though this is a response to US complaints. Joining us is the secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez.

Secretary Gutierrez, welcome to DAY TO DAY. You're in a car in New York. We hope you can hear us all right.

Secretary CARLOS GUTIERREZ (Commerce Department): Thank you. Good to be with you.

CHADWICK: China is, if effect, raising the cost to the American consumer of these products, yes? If they put on internal tarrifs, that's going to make the shirt or the pair of trousers that you buy a little git more expensive. Is it going to be enough more expensive that that will discourage people from buying Chinese products? Is this going to really help the problem?

Sec. GUTIERREZ: Well, we just saw the announcement, and there's analysis happening as we speak to look at the tarrifs that they just imposed on their textiles.

CHADWICK: Hard to say at this point.

Sec. GUTIERREZ: What we want, of course, is simply free and fair competition, and we will see what the impact is in the marketplace and how this impacts imports coming from other markets around the world. And hopefully what we're gaining here is a fair competition from countries all over the world. We just want companies to compete on the basis of their costs and their efficiencies and their productivities, and that's what hopefully we'll gain from this.

CHADWICK: A textile lobbyist told me yesterday we've lost two million manufacturing jobs in the United States just during the Bush administration. When are those jobs going to come back.

Sec. GUTIERREZ: Well, let me just talk to you about the facts as I see them. Manufacturing employment has been on the rise for the past two years. And instead of picking out one number from our overall economy, we should step back, look at the economy at large and look at the bigger picture. Our unemployment as a country was down to--is down to 5.2 percent, so a lot to do. There's still a lot of progress to be made, but we should recognized that we have made a tremendous amount of progress at a time when we have had some very serious challenges.

CHADWICK: I just think that this is such a political dilemma when I--and, of course, you're not just focused on politics. I'm not suggesting that. But here you have the manufacturing sector of the economy, textiles. That's an important consideration in parts of the country that are politically important to the president. And then you have the retailers saying, `Look, we're very happy with the way things are, and these trade decisions coming out of the Commerce Department are completely driven by politics.' And I just wonder how do you go about keeping everybody happy?

Sec. GUTIERREZ: Well, the president has said repeatedly that our policy is to create the environment, to create the playing field, so that entrepreneurs and small businesses can create jobs and innovate in open markets. We are not in the business of doing business in Washington. We're in the business of creating an environment so that our businesses can flourish, and that's what we're going to continue to do, so that all of our sectors can grow.

CHADWICK: Mr. Secretary, you recently said our national destiny is bound to free trade. But some consider these trade limits that you're talking about now with China as a protectionist move, as a contradiction with free trade. How would you respond?

Sec. GUTIERREZ: Well, our strategy is very clear, and the president has been very clear, that one of the points that continue to drive growth and to continue to create jobs is to open up markets and to drive free trade. What we did with textiles is simply exercise our right as was negotiated. We are simply putting in place a provision that was negotiated. But the strategy is very clear. The strategy is free trade, to open up new markets, to continue to create global competition, so our businesses can grow, create jobs and expand.

CHADWICK: Carlos Gutierrez is secretary of Commerce. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us on DAY TO DAY.

Sec. GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much, sir.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News, and there's more of it just ahead.

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