Despite continued American-Japanese rivalry over steel and television imports, union leaders from the two countries made an unusual joint appeal yesterday for trade regulations to protect their workers from low-cost textile and apparel imports.
Japanese textile-apparel workers now earn nearly as much as their American counterparts and face "identical" problems, including loss of jobs to low-wage countries, said Murray Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union.
"Our economic interests are the same and our philosophic interests are the same," Finley said at the conclusion of a three-day meeting here involving ACTWU, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and Zensen Domei, the 500,000-member Japanese federation of textile and garment workers.
Their joint statement opposed any reduction of existing textile and apparel tarifts during upcoming multilateral trade negotiations and urged both American and Japanese governments to "combat subsidies provided by some countries to exporters of textile and apparel products."
The statement made no mention of charges by American industries, often backed by unions, that the Japanese have "dumped" steel and television products at market prices below cost in the United States.
Instead, Finley and Tadamobu Usami, president of Zensen Domei, stressed what Findley called the "commonality of interests" between Japanese and American textile and apparel workers as a "heartening example . . . of international solidarity."
Echoing a complaint often made by unions against employers here, Finley said Japanese manufacturers are investing in low-wage countries like South Korea, confronting the Japanese textile-apparel industry with the "identical problems we [have]; unemployment, shrinking in the industry, displacement of workers."
The American union group said about 30 per cent of U.S. textiles and apparel comes from abroad, with most of the low-cost competition coming from Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Usami said 10 to 12 per cent of textile and apparel sales in Japan come from imports, largely from Korea, China, Hong Kong, Italy and the United States.
Usami also said he met recently with trade union leaders from a number of Asian countries and found that they agreed with a need for more "orderly" trade arrangements. "Their outlook is coming to be close to the outlook we have," Usami said.