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Easley Wants Bush To Take Notice Of N.C.'s Hurting Textile Industry

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's textile industry appears to be unraveling. Officials said 50,000 of those jobs have disappeared just in the past two years. Now, Gov. Mike Easley and other state leaders are pleading with President George W. Bush to stop the bleeding.

When Bush announced on Labor Day that is appointing an assistant commerce secretary for manufacturing, Easley took notice.

"I want to keep them focused on it because it really affects North Carolina in a big, big way," he said.

Easley fired off a series of letters, applauding the president in one sentence and then criticizing the administration's trade agreements and enforcement in the next.

"The adminstration is beginning to realize what's going on. Letters from Mike Easley are helpful," said Jim Bell, who heads the North Carolina Manufacturer's Association.

Bell said he blames trade agreements with countries like China and Vietnam for job losses at manufacturing plants like Pillowtex in Kanapolis or Swift Denim in Erwin. Easley also agrees with that assessment.

"Washington is negotiating their jobs away with Vietnam and they don't even have a seat at the table," he said.

Easley said his letters are not driven by politics, but Bell believes unemployment anger could become a real political liablity for the president. Bell points to studies that estimate up to 85,000 more North Carolina manufacturing workers will lose their jobs if trade policies do not change.

"This time, I honestly think the emotion is going to turn to votes," Bell said.

It is not just the Democratic governor pleading with the president. Several of the state's Republican leaders are also criticizing the administration's trade policies.

On Wednesday, Bush signed free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore.


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