The US textile industry and its supporters in Congress are strongly attacking Indonesia’s closing
of its markets to all imports of textiles and apparel, not so much because Indonesia is a
significant market, but to highlight problems with countries that export large quantities to the US
while protecting their home markets. The Indonesian government recently announced it was closing
its markets to all textiles and apparel imports in response to a flood of imports from China.
Van May, ATMI chairman, quickly fired off letters to Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans
and UStr Robert Zoellick, charging that the ban is a violation of WTO rules. He urged the US
government to conduct “consultations” with Indonesia immediately, and if Indonesia refuses to lift
the ban, the US should similarly ban imports from Indonesia.
Indonesia is not a particularly important export market for US-made textiles, as exports in
recent years have hovered around $15 to $17 million, but Indonesia last year exported $350 million
worth of textiles and apparel to the United States. Textile industry officials see this as a
classic example of how countries ship huge amounts of textiles and apparel to the US while sharply
limiting or closing their own markets. In his letters, May charged that Indonesia has “high tariff
rates, arbitrary customs valuations, add-on taxes, excessive paperwork and customs delays that have
limited US textile exports.” US textile manufacturers would like to see imports from not only
Indonesia, but also India, Pakistan and some of the major Asian nations restricted unless they open
their markets to US products. In addition, May expressed concern that if the Indonesian action is
not reversed, other nations under siege by Chinese imports also would close their markets to all
textile and apparel imports.
By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent