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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (July 20, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---Guam's delegate to Congress Robert Underwood has branded as "erroneous" and "inflammatory" a statement issued by a U.S. coalition group which is seeking his support to endorse legislation against the CNMI garment industry.

According to a report by Agence France Presse, the Take Pride in America Coalition has written to members of Congress to lobby for the approval of a proposed measure which seeks to close loopholes in the U.S. laws, which it said are being taking advantage of by local garment manufacturers.

The coalition wrote to Underwood asking him to back a legislation that would subject garment exports produced by manufacturers here to taxes as a way of supporting U.S. products made by American workers, the report says.

However, Underwood said he would not support efforts that would interfere in the affairs of the Northern Marianas.

The letter, according to the French news agency, was signed by Charles Mercer, president of the Union Label and Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Carlos Moore, executive vice president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute; Linda Golodoner, president of the National Consumers League; and Steve Protulis, executive director of the National Council of Senior Citizens.

The coalition, which has members in all 50 states, charged that garment factories here, particularly those owned by Chinese businessmen, have taken advantage of the loopholes in the Northern Marianas immigration system to export apparel labeled "Made in USA" to the mainland duty-free.

"This U.S. territory, 6,000 miles away in the Pacific Ocean, is using Chinese components, Chinese materials and Chinese workers who often toil in sweatshops where fundamental human rights are routinely violated," AFP reported, quoting the coalition's letter to congressional members.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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