June 27, 2000
The U.S. retail sector is a $3 trillion a year industry and employs one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. Retailers also represent a large segment of the importing community.
Imports are not only important to the U.S. retail industry, but to the U.S. economy as a whole:
Imports improve the U.S. standard of living.
As importers, U.S. retailers have to contend with a host of trade restrictions, especially those on clothing and textile products.
The good news is that quotas will disappear on January 1, 2005. The bad news is that we expect dumping actions to be filed by the textile industry and the unions once quotas are dropped. In addition, new safeguards actions are available under the U.S.-China bilateral trade agreement that could effectively extend current quotas by other means. That is why it is critical to work with other importing groups among the consuming industries to ensure that our interests are recognized by policy makers with respect to the application of trade remedies.
The only U.S. trade law that allows for consideration of consumer interests is in the remedy phase under Section 201. Consumer groups can weigh in on dumping and countervailing duty investigations before the ITC, but the broader benefits of importing are not typically factored into the Commission's analysis. That analysis is narrowly prescribed: are U.S. producers injured and, if so, did imports cause the injury?
Certainly, the flat panel case and others like it demonstrate that such a narrow construction of the process can be costly to consumers, be they American families or manufacturers. More needs to be done by the ITC to consider the ramifications of implementing a dumping/CVD remedy on consumer groups.
Unfortunately, petitioner groups, such as the steel and textile industries, are well organized, well funded, and have considerable political influence in Congress. While on the other side, U.S. importers are often small companies with limited resources. With respect to the application of trade remedies, most Members of Congress that only foreigners are affected and do not realize that U.S. companies and their workers can also be severely impacted. Our task is to build our political base and educate Members about the impact of U.S. trade laws on American consumers and consuming industries and assure that our views are taken into account.