Major retailers have agreed to sponsor an advertising campaign to tell customers they are paying billions of dollars extra in clothing bills because of import quotas pushed by the textile industry.
William A. Andres, chairman of the executive committee of Dayton Hudson Corp. and head of the Retail Industry Trade Action Council (RITAC), said here today that the ad campaign is due to start within two weeks.
Andres said retailers had never conducted such a campaign, but with more import quotas looming, decided on an advertising program in the name of individual stores rather than under the RITAC umbrella.
He said at a briefing sponsored by the American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI) that quotas and tariffs on textile imports cost the American consumer as much as $23 billion a year. That total translates to $78,000 a year for every U.S. worker in the textile and clothing industries who loses a job because of foreign products for sale in this country.
"For that kind of money, the American people could buy an awful lot of retraining and transition assistance for affected workers, and still have the benefit of lower prices," Andres said.
By going public with their complaints against U.S. import barriers, the retailers are pitting themselves against one of their suppliers, the clothing industry, as well as taking on one of the most potent political lobbies in the country.
The retailers' attack on textile and apparel interests comes as that industry is intensifying its pressure on Congress to support legislation that would reduce textile imports drastically.
The Reagan administration, which for the most part has been supportive of industry arguments that increasing imports are hurting domestic manufacturers and their workers, has decided to oppose the bill.
In a draft of a letter prepared by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for circulation on Capitol Hill, the administration argues that the bill is not "needed to maintain a strong and viable textile industry."
The draft letter, which has not received final Cabinet-level approval but was described by trade sources, said the bill would hurt every American by raising prices.
The bill also is likely to end bilateral agreements on textile limitations with 34 nations; violate the global Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA), and cause the 12 largest textile-importing nations to retaliate against American exports, largely farm products, the draft letter said.
"It would start a trade war for sure," said a representative of one of the 12 textile-importing nations.