Pushed by the Democratic leadership of the House, the Ways and Means Committee yesterday cleared a controversial textile quota bill that the Bush administration and trading partners said could scuttle the Uruguay round of global free-trade talks.

"If that bill becomes law, the Uruguay Round will be the least of our worries because we will be in a trade war," said Rufus Yerxa, U.S. ambassador to the Uruguay Round. "There is no way we can negotiate a trade agreement of any kind in that environment."

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill because he considers it protectionist and harmful to ongoing trade talks.

But the Senate last week overwhelmingly approved, by a 68-32 vote, a similar bill that would restrict the growth of U.S. imports of textiles and clothing from industrialized and Third World countries to 1 percent a year. The vote is enough to override the threatened veto.

There was strong opposition to the legislation within the Ways and Means Committee, but it ended up clearing the bill for floor action without any recommendation.

The politically powerful textile industry lobbied hard for congressional passage of a quota bill before the completion of negotiations this December to expand and strengthen the rules of international trade, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Textile-producing countries, most of them in the Third World, want the GATT talks to end restrictions that industrialized nations have put on textile imports.

"It is the first priority for the developing countries," said Prem Singh, commercial minister of the Indian Embassy here. He added that congressional passage of a textile quota bill "would undo the Uruguay Round. All four years' work {in the trade talks} will be fruitless."

The 12-nation European Community also attacked the bill as protectionist.

But Donald R. Hughes, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said, "It is gratifying that so many members of Congress realize the seriousness of the import problem plaguing the textile industry and its 2 million workers and that they want to do something about it."