Barrier up on skirts

The Union minister of state for tex-tiles, G Venkat Swamy, has threatened "retaliatory action" against American products, if a recent US ban on the sale of rayon ghagras made in India is not withdrawn. The ban, imposed on the grounds that they are highly inflammable, had demolished Indian hopes that non-tariff barriers will not be imposed unilaterally.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had asked for an immediate recall of the skirts when the latter appar-ently failed to pass flammability tests. The minister, however, said that while similar products from other countries had been spared, the ban against the ghagras had been widely publicised in the US causing damage to the entire range of Indian textile exports. The CPSC has already gone on television - airing a vivid demonstration of how "dangerously inflammable" the skirts are by actually igniting one of them, and asking consumers not to buy them.

Of the 900,000 skirts exported by India, a quarter of a million have been put in the banned category. These skirts, comprising of 100 to 65 per cent rayon, were sold at prices ranging between $6 and $80 in some of the fanciest boutiques in the US. The Commission alleged that even a cigarette could set the skirts afire. It has been announced that CPSC would coordinate with the US Customs to prevent the entry of the skirts into the country.

Indian exporters view the US move as a non-tar-iff barrier against garments. They say the ban fol-lows the unsuccessful attempt last month by US Customs to prevent the import of the skirts on the ground that they were non-traditional garments.