ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Global quotas, a freeze on imports, and an import permit system are necessary if the United States textile and apparel industry is to survive, manufacturers say.
'A significant and unwarranted deluge of imported textiles is drowning the apparel and fabric sector of this industry,' Walter Elisha, chairman and chief executive officer of Springs Industries Inc. in Fort Mill, told a House subcommittee Wednesday.
'The foreign textiles are coming into America at unprecedented rates and they are costing our people jobs, our companies their earnings and staying power and our communities their foundations.'
From January through September, textile and apparel imports rose 41 percent over the same period last year. In 1983, 49 textile plants closed nationwide and 25 more had permanent layoffs.
Cheraw Yarn Mills President Manning Malloy said if imports continue to grow at 40 percent they will have 76 percent of the domestic market by 1986.
'By Christmas, nearly one out of every two garments sold in the U.S. will be an import,' said Richard D. Demarest, manager of DuPont Co.'s Camden plant. 'The surge in imports which we have been experiencing in the last several years must be brought to a halt if our industry and jobs are to survive.'
The textile-apparel unit is the largest manufacturing employer in the nation. Thirty-six states have textile plants, 45 states produce apparel, and 48 states manufacture fiber. Statistics show the United States fiber, textile and apparel industry employs about 2.4 million Americans.
Textile workers who testified at the Commerce, Consumer, and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee hearing said they were on limited work weeks. They never knew how much they would work or for how long. Some have started retraining programs.
'It's the worst I have ever seen it,' said Carrie Gillen, a 21-year employee of Spray Cotton Mills in Mount Holly, N.C., who is on temporary layoff.
'I can't buy for my children and grandchildren unless I work. How do you explain to the little ones we didn't have the money to buy the Christmas goodies they wanted? Or the money to keep the house good and warm or to buy the food they like?'
The manufacturers called for global quotas, a freeze on imports at the 1983 level, import permits, and criticized the federal government for not allowing them to compete on equal footing. They said they were not looking for subsidies.
The countries cited as doing the most damage with imports are China, the Phillippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
'The Southern and U.S. textile and apparel industry is and will continue to lose jobs to China and other low wage and government supported industries unless our government takes the position of helping our industry compete on an equal basis,' William H. Grier Jr, division vice president of Rock Hill Printing & Finishing, said during a hearing conducted by Rep. Doug Barnard Jr., D-Ga., and South Carolina Democratic Reps. John Spratt and Butler Derrick.
While imported goods are currently cheaper, they claim prices will increase as soon as an American competitor no longer exists.
Hamrick Mills board chairman John Hamrick noted the federal government this year, through a low interest loan to China, the world's largest textile producer, included $8.1 million for the purchase of proto-type textile mahinery of the latest design.
Ti-Caro Inc. President James C. Fry chastized the government for a deal in 1976 where Egypt was given a $96 million loan by the U.S. Agency for International Development to modernize the Misr Spinning and Weaving Co.