More on the floor

May 26, 2003

AFA expands show scope

 By Ron Copsey

DALTON, GA — About 2,000 domestic and international visitors from all manufacturing areas of soft and hard surface floorcoverings attended the biennial FloorTek Expo last month at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center here.

“The attendees represented a quality audience, as most were managers and above,” said Wanda Ellis, executive director of the American Floorcovering Alliance (AFA), the sponsor of FloorTek Expo. “This trade show is the only exhibition to feature exclusively the machinery, equipment, services and suppliers for the flooring industry.”

 
Jim Shaheen, president of the American Floorcovering Alliance, stands with winners of the Best of FloorTek Awards. (L-R) Bill Barron, vice president of manufacturing, Shaw Industries, who accepted on behalf of Robert Shaw; Lamar Lyle, president of Lyle Industries; Shaheen; Mac Bridger, CEO of Collins & Aikmans Floorcoverings; Charles Monroe, CEO of CMC/Card-Monroe; and Joe Yarbrough, vice for Mohawk Industries, who accepted on behalf of Jeff Lorberbaum, CEO of Mohawk.
Photo by Ron Copsey

Held for the sixth time since its inception in 1994, this event was previously known as The Carpet Technologies Show and when it was last held, it had the misfortune of being scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2001. The show went on as planned, but total attendance was down from expectations.

Since the last show, the sponsoring organization not only adopted a new name but also expanded its focus. Previously Another change was to break tradition and hold this year’s event in the spring rather than in the fall so as not to conflict with the 2003 International Textile Machinery Exhibition (ITMA) scheduled for Birmingham, England, October 22-29. FloorTek Expo this year attracted visitors from nearly 25 countries.

The show had some 125 exhibitors, including the three major tufting machine manufacturers — CMC/Card- Monroe, Cobble and Tuftco. Van de Wiele, a loom manufacturer, displayed products made on its new Universal Cut Loop machine that can make intricate, multi-level graphic rug designs in as many as eight colors.

The one thing that remained constant through all the changes for FloorTek Expo was the location — Dalton, often referred to as the “Carpet Capital of the World.” About 80 percent of the U.S. carpet market is supplied by mills within a 65 mile radius of here. Also, four of the largest carpet companies and seven of the largest 14 carpet companies are headquartered in Georgia. Carpet sales industry-wide in 2001 at the mill level were $12.1 billion.

Now with its broader mission to serve the entire floorcovering industry and not just carpet, AFA may have to greatly expand FloorTek Expo for its next run. If so, the present facility in Dalton may need to be enlarged. This year, its main floor exhibit area and one of two additional exhibit halls were fully utilized.

A fourth new element to this year’s show, was the Best of FloorTek Awards. They were created to honor excellence in the flooring industry. According to Jim Shaheen of Shaheen Carpet Mills and AFA President, “these awards honor individuals who have gone well above and beyond industry standards.” There were four award categories: Contribution to the Industry; Individual Leadership; Environmental; and Product/Method Innovation.

The winners were announced at a dinner attended by more than 200 people at the Dalton Golf & Country Club. Jeff Lorberbaum, CEO of Mohawk Industries, and Robert Shaw, CEO of Shaw Industries, were co-award winners in the Contribution to the Industry category. Neither was able to attend the ceremonies.

Joe Yarbrough, vice president for operations for Mohawk, accepted for Lorberbaum, and Bill Barron, vice president for manufacturing for Shaw, accepted for Robert Shaw.

Mohawk Industries is the largest floor covering manufacturer in the world with more than 33,000 employees. Shaw, with more than 30,000 employees, is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer.

Lamar Lyle, president of Lyle Industries, was the recipient of the Individual Leadership Award for his many contributions and personal service.

The Environmental Award went to Mac Bridger, CEO of Collins & Aikman Floorcoverings, for a process to reclaim tile backing.

Charles Monroe, CEO of CMC/Card-Monroe, received the Product/Method Innovation Award for the utmost innovation in new carpet tufting machines.

With about 150 members, the AFA is dedicated to strengthening its commitment to members serving this $35 billion dollar industry.

“Now that we encompass all of the markets serving the floor covering industry, we can broaden the scope of everything we do to help our members move forward and demonstrate competitive advantages,” Ellis said.

Internationally, AFA exhibits at such shows as Domotex in Europe and Domotex-Asia.

“We also help member companies develop foreign markets through export training workshops and with our on-site video conferencing system and access to a global computer network,” Ellis said.

Recently, AFA launched its redesigned and enhanced Web site, www.americanfloor.org.

“The site’s new design is part of AFA’s strategic initiative to enhance knowledge exchange and provide industry members with the most up-to-date information specific to the floorcovering industry and AFA’s services,” Ellis said. “It’s also an important step forward in the way we provide our members with information regarding the continually changing marketplace, news and events as well as global marketing and business opportunities abroad.”

AFA Officers, in addition to Shaheen, are Don Henson of DyeTech, vice president; and Bill Cosby of The Sample Works, secretary-treasurer. Bob Kokoszka of Burtco Enterprises serves in an ex-officio capacity.

Those serving as directors of AFA include: Sues Alexander, BB&T Bank; Greg Brock, Quality Finishing of Georgia; Lamar Brown, LESSCO; Carolyn Butler, Carpeton Mills; and Randall Coker, Northwest Carpets.

Other directors are Ed Harof, Wilcom America; Gree Joiner, H. Greely Joiner, LLC; Bucky McCamy, Grass-Tex; and Will Robison, Allied Insurance Agency.

Meanwhile, in the “FloorTek Open, Rick Gannon of Marsh Micro Systems, Chattanooga, TN, was the grand prize winner.

The “Open,” actually a putting contest played on an 8-foot long green with a toy putter, attracted some 240 contestants during the three-day show. Golfers scoring a hole-in-one were given golf balls and tee sets from the AFA, BP, and BB&T Bank. For his effort, Gannon was rewarded with a new Odyssey White Hot putter.

Winners of sports bags donated by BB&T Bank were Mitchell Crow of Waring Products, Calhoun, GA; John Denson of American Tufting, Dalton, GA; Kristi Harness of Lawson Products, Suwanee, GA; Gene Hill of Intermec Technologies, Sugar Hill, GA; Charles Monroe of Card-Monroe Corp., Chattanooga, TN; and Mark Wooten of Norville Industries, Dalton, GA.

Grass Tex, Inc. and Davis Carpet Supplies donated materials and labor for construction of the putting green.

Rules filed

May 26, 2003

Groups want China safeguard imposed

The U.S. government Wednesday published long-awaited procedures for considering requests for textile and apparel safeguard actions on imports from China.

The rules govern the use of a safeguard mechanism to restrict textile and apparel imports from China. Beijing agreed to the surge-protection measure as part of its agreement to join the World Trade Organization in Jan. 2001. Since then, China exports of textile an apparel products to the U.S. have skyrocketed.

In response to the filing, two domestic textile and apparel lobbying groups called for the safeguard to be implemented immediately.

“If this safeguard is not used quickly and comprehensively, it will mean disaster for this country’s, as well as the rest of the world’s, textile and apparel workers,” Parks Shackelford, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), said in a statement.

U.S. textile and apparel groups asked last year that the safeguard be invoked after imports of certain Chinese textile and apparel products quickly surged following China’s joining the WTO.

“While we are pleased that the U.S. government has finally published the regulations, the 18-month delay in the completion of the publication process is inexcusable,” Augustine Tantillo, Washington coordinator of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), said in a release. “Now the U.S. government needs to follow through by swiftly implementing the safeguard itself.”

Grant Aldonas, undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, announced during ATMI’s annual meeting in April that the U.S. government had finalized the process for employing the China textile safeguard and would publish the rules governing that process soon.

“Government delay and indecision regarding these rules have taken a terrible toll and we mourn the loss of so many good-paying textile jobs in the United States,” Shackelford said. “While the government dawdled, Chinese imports increased by a record 165 percent and the U.S. textile industry was forced to close more than 50 plants and lay off 39,000 textile workers.”

China’s vast, subsidized textile and apparel sector posed a threat to millions of textile and apparel employees around the world, Shackelford added.

“The past 17 months have been proof plenty that, without its effective use, China will put the textile and apparel industries in virtually every other country, including the U.S. with its nearly 1 million textile and apparel workers, out of business.”

Shackelford cited statistics showing that, in the 29 apparel categories that this safeguard has been available for, China increased its exports last year to the United States by $1 billion while China’s competitors around the world saw their own exports drop over this same period by $800 million.

“China used its illegally manipulated currency to gain an artificial and insurmountable advantage over every other country in the world by slashing its prices by an average of 44 percent,” he said.

Already the single largest exporter of textile and apparel products to the United States, for 12 straight months China’s textile and apparel imports have been increasing at an annual rate of more than 100 percent, according to AMTAC. China’s textile and apparel exports to the U.S. are now valued at close to $10 billion for the latest 12-month period, with a volume of more than 5.8 billion square meters, AMTAC added.

“Clearly it is time for action,” Tantillo said. “U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers don’t need any more promises, commitments or hollow announcements about rules that should have been published last year. What the industry needs is results.

“When the U.S. government actually uses this safeguard to keep Chinese exports from totally undermining U.S. manufacturers of textiles and apparel, that will be cause for celebration,” he added. “With textile quotas to be eliminated in 2005 for WTO members, it is very significant that this special textile safeguard mechanism will be available to our domestic manufacturers allowing them to petition for textile quotas on China until 2008. Hopefully, such action will come in time to save some of the 904,000 textile and apparel jobs that are left in this country.”

Beleaguered Pillowtex
may find bigger loss

May 26, 2003

KANNAPOLIS, NC — More dark clouds have gathered around Pillowtex Corp., which said May 14 that it is reviewing is financial statement for last year and could find additional losses of $2 million.

The home textiles maker, which is being pursued by rival Springs Industries and a couple of other investment groups brought in by the UNITE union, announced in March that it lost $27 million in the seven months since it emerged from bankruptcy protection last June. The company is seeking a buyer in order to avoid a return to bankruptcy, according to reports.

Pillowtex said its audit committee will re-examine accounting for discounts, rebates and co-op advertising used to promote its products.

The company said that, under the revisions, losses could increase by $700,000 during the January-May period before it emerged from Chapter 11, and $1.3 million in additional losses since then.

In a statement, the company leaders announced that other potential buyers will be involved in the process. Officials with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) said that two possible unnamed investors brought forth by the union will be allowed to make offers.

Subsequent published reports linked a Brazilian textile firm with Pillowtex. A newspaper in Brazil reported that Coteminas was selling 12.4 percent of its capital to raise money for the acquisition and indicated that Springs was part of the deal.

On May 15, NC Gov. Mike Easley toured Pillowtex Corp.’s headquarters and Plant 1 here, where he spoke with employees and the media. He is pushing to protect jobs in the county, where 3,800 of the company’s 7,850 employees work.

“We have the most competitive industry in the world and the most highly skilled workers,” he said. “All we need is the federal government to help us.”

In a letter dated May 20, Easley asked the NC Congressional delegation to support his request to President Bush for his trade representatives to withdraw from the current agreement with Vietnam and negotiate fair trade policy in future agreements.

“Many of the Pillowtex workers that I met wore American flags and yellow ribbons in support of our troops,” said Easley in a release. “These citizens love their country, make sacrifices for its principles and trust their elected leaders to fight for their jobs and their communities.

“Unfortunately, our deficient national trade policy fails to honor this trust. It is inexcusable that these hard-working North Carolinians may lose their jobs because of poor negotiating tactics and results, such as the recent agreement with Vietnam.”

On May 8, Easley sent a letter to Bush urging him to protect North Carolina’s textile industry in international trade negotiations. He requested that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) withdraw its current agreement with Vietnam, reinstate import protections based on previous negotiations and conduct a comprehensive review of all quota categories to determine legitimate levels of Vietnamese trade.

“North Carolina’s excellent business climate and our highly skilled workers can allow us to transition our economy successfully,” said Easley. “But we must have relief from misdirected national trade policy that undercuts an entire industry in the midst of the current economic downturn.”

Mills

May 26, 2003

Alice to close plant; employees may be transferred

EASLEY, SC — Alice Manufacturing Co. said it plans to close its Arial weaving plant ween here and Pickens, SC, by the end of July, The Greenville News reported.

About 150 people will be affected, but Smyth McKissick, Alice’s president and treasurer, said the company will try to relocate those employees to its other three plants in Pickens County.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a temporary layoff,” McKissick told the newspaper. “It is our intention and our desire and we’re going to give our very best effort to place those 147 folks in our three remaining facilities.”

Alice Manufacturing began phasing out operations at the plant two years ago, moving its carding and spinning departments to its other, more modern facilities. McKissick added that the other three plants are doing well.

At least 30 people a month have been hired to fill vacancies created through attrition, McKissick told the News. Alice currently has about 1,200 people on its payroll.

Roane Hosiery plans to shut after 53 years

HARRIMAN, TN — Roane Hosiery Inc. announced May 13 that it will close within 60 days, costing about 300 people their jobs.

The company, which has been in business 53 years, blamed the decision on the decline of women’s sheer hosiery.

“We tried everything we could,” said the company’s George E. Wilson III, as quoted by the Associated Press. “We are sorry this is happening; we realize it will be a blow to the community.”

Neuville Inds. to cut more than 200 jobs

HILDEBRAN, NC — Neuville Industries, a hosiery manufacturer, will cut 140 jobs at its plant in Athens, TN, and 75 at its facility here.

The company, which makes athletic, casual and children’s socks, currently employs about 225 people in Athens and 400 in Hildebrand.

Imports and increasing customer demand made the decision necessary, Jeff Neuville, president and CEO, told The Hickory Daily Record. The cuts are expected to be complete by mid-August, he said.

Affected employees here handle primarily seaming, boarding and packaging. Those jobs will be moved to he Dominican Republic, Neuville told the newspaper. The company was bought by International Legwear Group, a Winston-Salem, NC-based holding company, earlier this year.

Neuville has been in business since 1950.

C&A takes another big hit

TROY, MI — Collins & Aikman Corp., a supplier of textiles for automobiles, reported a first-quarter net loss of $28.7 million, or 34 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $18.4 million, or 27 cents a share, a year ago.

Income from operations totaled $17.4 million, down from $54.4 million a year earlier. Sales rose to $1.04 billion from $914.8 million.

Burke Mills suffers loss in first quarter

VALDESE, NC — Burke Mills, Inc. lost $118,533, or 4 cents per share, for the first quarter after making $288,373, or 11 cents per share, during the same period last year.

Net sales were $6.6 million, from $8.9 million a year ago.

Hancock Fabrics sees earnings, sales improve

TUPELO, MS — Hancock Fabrics, Inc. saw its earnings improve to $1.1 million, or 22 cents per share, in the first quarter compared to $3.7 million, or 20 cents, during the comparable 2002 quarter.

Sales increased to $107.6 million from $104.1 million.

April job cuts total 6,000

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. government released data showing that the U.S. textile industry was forced to cut 6,000 jobs in April, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) reported on May 2.

U.S. textile employment fell to a new low of 409,000, as job losses were more than double the 2,900 textile jobs lost in March.

According to the most recent monthly figures, ATMI reported that:

• imports of textile and apparel products from China more than doubled, rising from 233 million square meters in February 2002 to a record 532 million square meters in February 2003; and

• imports from Vietnam increased by 1,000 percent, rising from 6 million square meters in February 2002 to a record 66 million square meters in February 2003.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. knitting sector has lost 6,500 jobs or 7 percent of its work force over the last year (through March), the most of any textile sector, ATMI said.

ABOVE: Anton Wilson (L) of Target Corporation, Minneapolis, was elected president of the Textile Quality Control Association during its Spring Conference. He is joined here by Roger Mayerson, vice president of Product Development, Quality and Sourcing at Kohl’s.
RIGHT: Norma Keyes, with outgoing TQCA president Allen Little of CIS Graphics, Charlotte, NC, holds a plaque she was presented for her service to the association.

Wilson elected TQCA president

May 26, 2003

WILMINGTON, NC — Anton Wilson of Target Corp., Minneapolis, was elected president of the Textile Quality Control Association (TQCA) during its Spring Conference here last month.

He succeeded Allen Little of CIS Graphics, Charlotte, NC, who served a two-year term. David Witt of Springs Industries remained first vice president, while Norma Keyes of Cotton Incorporated, Raleigh, NC, was re-elected vice president of industry relations. Kim Pettit of the American Yarn Spinners Association will continue to serve as secretary/treasurer.

During the meeting, Keyes was presented a plaque for her outstanding service and tireless efforts to the association.

The event was held jointly with the American Society for Quality-Textile and Needle Trades Division.

James C. Leonard III, deputy assistant secretary for Textiles, Apparel and Consumer Goods Industries within the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, updated members on White House initiatives related to the U.S. textile and apparel industry.

He reported on a number of steps the administration is taking to help the industry meet competitive challenges. Among topics covered: market access for U.S. textile and apparel goods; enforcement of existing commitments; transshipment; unfair trade laws; trade adjustment assistance; and diversifying economies.

Among other speakers were Mary Brannon of VF Corp., who discussed color technology; Brenda Ambrose of VF Corp., who spoke on logistics; Pardip Metha, chief of quality assurance for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, who addressed compliance issues and social responsibility; Neil Cahill, a retired vice president of the Institute of Textile Technology, who covered quality trends; and Roger Mayerson, vice president of Product Development, Quality and Sourcing at Kohl’s.

Elected to the board of directors were David Austin; Roger Britton of Wellman, Inc.; Sam Cain of Springs Industries; Mike Honeycutt of Lawson-Hemphill Sales; Doris Bennett of National Textiles; Krishna Parachuru of Georgia Tech; Ward Ledbetter of Cheraw Yarn Mills; David Perkinson of Bowling Green Spinning; Lan Brady of Cone Mills; Mark Knight of Russell Corp.; Obie Mason of Kendell Health Care; Mason Epperly of Russell Corp.; and Little.

The Fall Conference is scheduled for September 30 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Harrisburg, NC. Call 704-824-3522 for more information.

Events

May 12, 2003

ITMA preview seminar set

FALLS CHURCH, VA — A seminar previewing the International Textile Machinery Exhibition International (ITMA) 2003 has been organized by the American Textile Machinery Association (ATMA).

The preview event will take place June 17 at the Myers Park Country Club, 2415 Roswell Avenue, Charlotte, NC, from 1:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Andrew Bird, operations director for the ITMA 2003 Organizing Committee, NEC, will provide an overview of Birmingham.

An update on ATMA facilities and services will be given by John Broughan, president of World Travel Meeting & Incentives, and Harry W. Buzzerd Jr. and Clay D. Tyeryar of ATMA.

A panel discussion on strategies and expectations of exhibitors and visitors will include comments from Joe Okey Jr., president of American Monforts Corp. and ATMA vice chairman; Kurt Scholler, CEO of American Truetzschler, Inc. and ATMA past chairman; and a yet-to-be-named speaker.

An overview of technology and innovations is also on the schedule.

ITMA 2003 is slated for Oct. 22-29 in Birmingham, England.

For more information, contact ATMA headquarters at 703-538-1789 or visit www.atmanet.org.

INDA, AATCC to join for co-sponsorship

The Nonwoven Enhancements: Coloring and Finishing Conference is scheduled for June 17-19 at the Raleigh Hilton in Raleigh, NC.

INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, and American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) sponsor.

Call INDA at 919-233-1210, AATCC at 919-549-3535 or visit the Web sites www.inda.org or www.aatcc.org.

GTP seminar to cover problematic cotton

GREENVILLE, SC — “Processing Problematic Cotton Fiber — Current Crop” is the subject of a half-day seminar here by Global Textile Partner (GTP) here on June 17.

Fee is $195 per person. Contact Andy Butenhoff at andy.butenhoff@globaltextile partner.com or at at 864-609-2838.

Pickin' Cotton

May 26, 2003

U.S. weather challenges may support higher prices

By Odyll Santos

While declining cotton supplies and soaring exports have prompted visions of higher New York cotton futures prices in the 2003-04 season, Mother Nature also has a lot to do with the situation. Weather in some cotton-producing U.S. states has hindered planting or crop growth and is likely to help support prices.

In west Texas, where the bulk of U.S. cotton is grown, a large part of the land has not been planted, as producers wait for appropriate moisture conditions to put seeds in the ground. County agents have reported soil moisture in many areas to be short to very short.

“What is becoming clearer every day ... is that in order for producers to take advantage of a relatively decent subsoil moisture situation, Mother Nature is going to have to come through with a decent starter,” said Shawn Wade of Plains Cotton Growers in a report for the week ended May 16. “With little to no rainfall activity occurring over the May 14-16 time frame, it is back to a wait and see approach for High Plains producers.”

Wade noted that at that time, growers could wait before planting cotton, but if good rains didn’t come in the following two weeks, planting may become more challenging. For dryland cotton, which depends on rain for moisture needs, the situation may be more difficult. Because of the lack of rain, little, if any, dryland acres were sown in the region as of mid-May. Much of the planting progress in the Texas High Plains in the first half of May occurred in irrigated acreage. Of the 3.5 million acres expected to be sown in the region, only about 700,000 have been planted.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Delta, the problem is too much rain. The northern Delta already had experienced significant rainfall in late April and early May. It continued to receive more unwanted rains through mid-May, with heavy downpours across Arkansas, northern Mississippi, west Tennessee and the Missouri Bootheel.

Experts said places such as Sharkey and Yazoo counties in Mississippi would welcome a little rain, but areas in the state’s northeastern portion already were very wet. Some cotton planted before rain fell has struggled to develop properly, prompting discussions among farmers about replanting some fields. Will McCarty, who heads the Extension of Agronomy at Mississippi State University, recommended that farmers carefully evaluate their fields for replanting, considering the health of the seed left behind after the rains and the uniformity of a cotton plant’s stand.

Tennessee saw major storms dump rain and spawn tornadoes, causing flooding in some areas and raising concerns about seedling disease in the small amount of cotton already in the ground. Fields in the Dyer and Tipton county bottoms, where cotton usually is planted early, are likely to lose some crops as more rains come. Haywood and Crocket counties, the state’s largest cotton producers, were behind in planting as of May 12. Fields that were flooded still have to be replanted. Farmers there typically like to complete most cotton planting by May 20.

In Missouri’s Bootheel area, some fields, such as those in Pemiscot County, show healthy-looking cotton plants despite very wet conditions. But replanting also is likely in certain areas, and the state’s cotton farmers already passed their preferred planting period. Ideally, growers in the Bootheel region plant cotton between May 1 and May 10.

Some growers in the southeastern part of the U.S. also grappled with a wet spring. The first weekend of May saw hail fall in North Carolina fields, damaging some cotton plants. Jack Bachelor, extension entomologist at North Carolina State University, noted that when fields dried out enough, there should be plenty of moisture to help cotton stands emerge promptly.

Mississippi cotton specialist O.A. Cleveland said the December futures contract traded in New York should benefit from U.S. weather problems. He also noted that weather events in foreign growing areas, such as those in China and Central Asia, also should help prices. “These weather factors, coupled with demand, should pull December futures above the 60-cent (per pound) mark,” he said in market comments for the week ended May 16.

Editorial

May 26, 2003

Industry ticked off

I’M MAD as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

That seems to be the growing sentiment among representatives of the U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing industry these days. We’ve certainly done our part recently to play sounding board to industry representatives venting their anger. This anger manifests itself through the airing of frustrations — frustrations about our government’s dragging its feet in taking real-time action for stability and preservation, frustrations about trade-deal makers seemingly wanting to sell them up the river against a bigger tide of geo-political pressures, frustrations about collateral damage in the form of lost jobs continuing to mount around them. Wherever we go — trade shows, seminars, meetings — this rage is emerging, if not in our ear, then in the ear of government officials, lawmakers or similarly pent-up peers.

CEOs and presidents have certainly been among those airing their grievances in recent weeks. National Textile’s Jerry Rowland, Parkdale’s Andy Warlick, Guilford Mills’ John Emrich, National Spinning’s Jim Chesnutt and Cheraw Yarn’s Malloy Evans, among others, all have worn their emotions on their sleeves in communicating, via forums and Q&A sessions, the pain and pressures this industry is going through. Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Grant Aldonas and his underlings have been on the receiving end of some of that, shall we say, “passionate expression.”

THE STRAW that broke the camel’s back, of course, is that accursed Vietnam deal. (Or the “Vietnam scam,” as one wag put it.) The U.S. government, as you know, in April agreed to terms with the Communist country — which lacks World Trade Organization credentials — that places a generous cap on Vietnamese textile and apparel exports to the U.S. During the first year of the deal, quotas on those goods will limit the value of Vietnamese textile and apparel exports here to $1.65 million — nearly double what the country sent the U.S. last year when those products wreaked even more havoc on the bedraggled U.S. textile and apparel industry.

“It’s the worst damn deal I’ve ever seen,” one executive told us. “What were they thinking? Why did our government do that do us?” And therein lies the rub: This industry feels duped and cheated by an administration that, repeatedly, has told it “you have a friend in Washington.”

And, now, after such a charitable quota limit was given Vietnam — perhaps based on fraudulent numbers inflated through Chinese transshipment — the patience of those who want to believe that statement is wearing thin. It isn’t supposed to be this way, industry executives are saying. They’re simply getting sick and tired of having to put their people on the streets, all in the name of free trade and to the gain of importers and retailers.

And they’re saying so.

ADDING FUEL to the industry’s ire was the so-called “China safeguard” issue. Last year, the domestic industry asked its government to invoke a special mechanism to protect this market against surges of textile and apparel products — a safeguard OK’d by China as part of its membership in the WTO. For months, no action was taken. In early April, Aldonas told members of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) that procedures for considering requests for safeguard actions on textile and apparel imports from China would be published within a week or so. Finally, some six weeks later, the rules were filed.

We know things move at a snail’s pace in Washington, but such a delay in even publishing the procedures has done nothing but test the industry’s patience and exacerbate its frustration, resulting in this escalating fury.

So, now is the time for the Bush Administration to put up or shut up. Along with other textile and apparel lobbying groups, we urge the U.S. government to implement the safeguard as quickly as possible, to the good of those you call friends. And don’t do this as simply a means of mollifying this industry; do it because it’s the right thing to do for your country.

If not, you risk making this industry even madder than hell.

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