My personal understanding: the US textile industry insists yarn-forward RoO in TPP is not because they expect a substantial increase of textile exports to Vietnam as the case of NAFTA and CAFTA which help capture the export markets in Mexico and Central America. But rather it is because:
1) Without yarn-forward, situation will get even worse. Particularly, a less restrictive RoO will make Vietnam’s apparel exports which contain textiles made in China, Taiwan or South Korea qualified for duty free access to the US market. Definitely this will be a more imminent and bigger threat to the US textile industry than simply facing competition from Vietnam’s apparel which contains Japanese made textiles. And still many US textile companies don’t treat the Japanese textile industry very seriously, although I think they should. Remember, Japan currently is the fourth largest textile supplier to Vietnam and the NO.1 textile supplier to China.
2) With yarn-forward RoO in place, at least US textile companies can invest in Vietnam (remember, globalization is about movement of capital as well. Many apparel companies in Mexico and Central America actually are invested by US companies). Without yarn-forward RoO however, Vietnam can simply rely on imported textiles as the case mentioned in (1) and there will be no incentive for US textile companies to move factories to Vietnam (meaning, capital holders will lose).
So overall yarn-forward RoO may win a few more years for the US textile industry. But in the long run, it is my view that the US textile production and its exports to the Western Hemisphere countries may still inevitably decline (especially those output to be used for apparel assembly purposes) after the implementation of TPP. In the 21st century, the nature of competition is supply chain v.s. supply chain.
The future of the US textile industry is those high-end markets, particularly technical & industrial textiles.
Additional Reading: The potential impact of TPP on the US textile industry
Officially, USTR has announced the following objectives in the TPP for textile and apparel:
- Elimination of tariffs on textile and apparel exports to TPP countries;
- A “yarn forward” rule of origin, which requires that textile and apparel products be made using U.S. or other TPP country yarns and fabrics to qualify for the benefits of the agreement, so as to ensure that non-qualifying textiles and apparel from non-TPP countries do not enjoy the benefits reserved for TPP countries;
- A carefully crafted “short supply” list, which would allow fabrics, yarns, and fibers that are not commercially available in the United States or other TPP countries to be sourced from non-TPP countries and used in the production of apparel in the TPP region without losing duty preference;
- Strict enforcement provisions and customs cooperation commitments that will provide for verification of claims of origin or preferential treatment, and denial of preferential treatment or entry for suspect goods if claims cannot be verified; and
- A textile specific safeguard mechanism that will allow the United States and other TPP countries to re-impose tariffs on certain goods if a surge in imports causes or threatens to cause serious damage to domestic producers.
According to the National Council of Textile Organizations, with regard to the market access offer to Vietnam, textile and apparel products are categories into different groups based on their “sensitivity” to the domestic industry producing the like products. Among the three major categories, the so called “X-basket” will include textile and apparel items that are deemed most sensitive to the United States. Specific items to be included in the X-basket however are unclear and details of the phrase-out formula are still under discussion. It is said that items in the “X-basket” may be subject to an initial tariff cut ranging from 35 to 50 percent.
Vietnam’s top apparel exports to the United States are basic apparel items like shirts, sweaters and pants. Many of them are the same types of items that were subject to the U.S. safeguard measures against China back in 2005. The U.S. textile industry hopes that the longer phrase-out period for items in the “X-basket” would provide needed time for the industry to adjust. However, for the Vietnam side, if duties on most of its apparel exports to the United States stay in place after the implementation of the TPP, the value of participating in the agreement would substantially be compromised.
The short-supply list is a roster of fabrics and other textile inputs that are determined to not be readily available in the TPP region in commercial quantities on a timely basis and can therefore be imported from third countries. Items on the short-supply list would be exempt from the general “yarn-forward” rule of origin that the U.S. has proposed in the textiles and apparel talks. USTR is pushing for a short-supply list that would have permanent items as well as temporary items that will be removed after three years. Previous U.S. free trade agreements, including CAFTA, have included a short supply process to add additional products to the list once the agreement enters into force. But the U.S. has rejected the notion that the short-supply list could be modified after the TPP enters into force.
Mexico has consistently sought to limit the scope of the short-supply list, arguing that it actually makes some of the products that the U.S. had originally proposed for inclusion in the short-supply list. Mexico was also pushing for roughly 70 items proposed for the short supply to be included only on a temporary basis, rather than a permanent one.
Other TPP members’ positions
According to the Inside US Trade, Malaysia’s textile and apparel industry is supporting U.S. calls for a “yarn-forward” rule of origin in TPP, but is also pushing for a range of exceptions such as cut-and-sew allowances and a short supply list that would be periodically reviewed. Among the items the Malaysian industry would like to see on the short supply list are shirting fabrics such as woven cotton fabric that weighs not more than 250 grams because this type of fabric is said not made in the U.S. nor Malaysia.
Lu, S. (2014). Does Japan’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership an opportunity or a threat to the U.S. textile industry: A quantitative analysis. Journal of the Textile Institute. (ahead of print version)