Manufacturers of cotton work gloves yesterday charged the People's Republic of China with flooding the United States with low-priced work gloves and asked the International Trade Commission to give them quotas.
The domestic manufacturers said Peking had increased its cotton glove shipments to the United States eight-fold between 1975 and 1976 and that Chinese exports were running at an even faster pace in 1977.
U.S. glove makers acted under a little-known, and previously unused, portion of the 1974 trade law that allows the International Trade Commission to take action against imports from Communist countries when those imports "disrupt" the domestic market.
The three-month proceeding will be watched carefuly by U.S. trade officials as well as trade officials from Communist countries. The section of the trade law in question makes it easier for a domestic industry to get relief for imports from Communist countries than other countries and also gives the President less discretion in modifying the recommendations of the International Trade Commission.
East-West trade remains relatively small. Last year the United States shipped $3.6 billion of goods to Communist countries totaled only $1 billion. U.S. exports will decline this year as the Soviet Union (which accounted for more than $2 billion of the total) is cutting down its U.S. purchases, partially to conserve its foreign exchange and partially because it is angry that Congress will give it neither most-favored nation trade status nor access to credit from the Export-Import Bank.
U.S. officials said they are hopeful that the action against work gloves will not have a dampening effect on the relatively small U.S.-China trade relationship - exports totaled $135 million and imports $202 million last year.
The political situation - lack of formal diplomatic recognition - "stands more in the way than the trade law as far as China is concerned," said one top trade official.
Earl S. Rauen, president of the Indianapolis Golve Co, and also president of the Work Glove Manufacturers Association, said that the industry has been "injured by the relatively recent surge of imports from mainland China. Employment in the industry - which officials said is made up mainly of blacks and women - declined from 9,500 in 1974 to 8,000 today as imports take an increasing share of the market.
Chinese work glove exports rose dramatically from 120,000 boxes of 12 pair of gloves in 1975 to 966,000 boxes last year, and now account for about 20 percent of all work glove imports. There are about 60 small American firms making similar gloves.
"Mainland China's potential for flooding the American market with cotton work gloves has been forcefully demonstrated and this potential clearly threatens the very survival of the domestic manufacturing industry," Rauen charged at a press conference.
Textiles products, such as cotton work gloves, represent a large portoin of China's shipment to the United States and other textile export from China have caused difficulties in the United States before.
A State Department official said yesterday that China had been told that the sharp jump in work glove shipments - which even after tariffs and transportation charges sell for about $2 to $2.50 less per dozen than American-made gloves - was causing problems here and that domestic producers might file for relief with the six-member International Trade Commission, set up in 1974 to administer the new trade law.
While U.S. trade law contain an "escape clause" provision to permit the government to take action to shelter a domestic industry that is being seriously hurt by imports, the section covering Communist countries makes it easier for an industry to get protection.
The special provisions pertaining to Communist countries also force the International Trade Commission to act within three months, instead of six months, and if the trade commission finds injury and imposes import restrictions, the President is required to act, although his relief may differ from the trade commission's.
Under the more general escape clause provision, the President can reject the six-member trade commission's findings, although Congress can overrule him.