The US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA) said it went to court on Wednesday seeking an injunction to stop the US government from "wrongly considering imposing safeguards against products of China". 

The group is objecting to a series of petitions from US textile companies and an inter-governmental lobby group that has demanded the Commerce Department limit certain textile imports from China they say harm domestic manufacturers. 

China warned the United States last month that any import quotas placed on Chinese textile products would seriously impact bilateral trade ties, and that it reserved the right to take up the issue with the World Trade Organisation. 

Rules changed

USA-ITA said the commerce department and four other agencies that comprise the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) were "accepting requests from anonymous petitioners based solely on 'anecdotal bits and pieces of information' in violation of importers' due process rights". 

"The government has ample authority under US law to take the safeguard actions requested by the petitioners"

US Commerce Department spokeswoman

USA-ITA executive director Laura Jones said CITA had changed the rules that banned petitions based "on some future threat" and that "guaranteed that only when current data was available showing an increase of imports would the safeguard process be deployed". 

A commerce department spokeswoman quoted on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal said the US government would stand by its decision to accept the petitions. 

"The government has ample authority under US law to take the safeguard actions requested by the petitioners," she said. 

Chinese domination

Textile manufacturers around the world are concerned that Chinese imports will dominate the market when decades-old global quotas end on 1 January 2005. 

The US petitions are based on a special safeguard arrangement which China agreed on during its entry negotiation with the WTO in 2001. 

According to the arrangement, a WTO member state can continue to limit Chinese textile imports on the grounds they may cause "market disruptions" or threaten to impede "the orderly development of trade".