WASHINGTON U.S. textile groups and cotton farmers on Wednesday strongly objected to proposed new trade benefits for Pakistan, saying the United States should send aid to the flood-ravaged country, not U.S. jobs.
The groups expressed their concern in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who were urged last week by the Chamber of Commerce, a leading U.S. business group, to press Congress for a generous package of U.S. textile tariff cuts to help Pakistan recover.
"If this proposal were to be accepted, it would cause irreparable damage to the U.S. textile industry resulting in significant job losses," the National Association of Textile Organizations, the National Cotton Council and three other industry groups said in the letter.
"We understand and recognize the magnitude of the recent torrential flooding in Pakistan and the enormous human tragedy this disaster has caused. We believe, however, that the proper response to this situation is for the United States and other governments to continue their outpouring of humanitarian aid," the groups said.
The groups, which also included the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said they supported a carefully crafted "Reconstruction Opportunity Zones" trade package for Pakistan that the House of Representatives has already approved and a similar bill that has been stalled in the Senate.
"These bills provide Pakistan with special tariff preferences for products constituting 74 percent of the volume they ship to the U.S. market, while preserving normal duty treatment on the categories critical to workers and producers throughout our hemisphere," the groups said.
But "any expansion of the product or geographic coverage beyond the language included in the bills listed above would result in a significant loss of U.S. textile and apparel jobs and would force the domestic industry to strongly oppose such legislation," the groups said.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)