Impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Textile and Apparel Trade in the Pacific Rim

TPP on T&A trade in the pacific rim

Citation: Lu, S. (2013). Impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on textile and apparel trade in the Pacific Rim. World Trade Organization Focus, 20(5), 67-77.

For questions, please contact the author: shenglu@mail.uri.edu

Three U.S. Textile Organizations Merge

NCTO-logo

If you’ve finished the third part of the T-shirt book, you should remember Auggie Tantillo and the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) under his leadership. On March 28, 2013,  AMTAC together with the National Textile Association (NTA) joined the National Council of Textile Organization (NCTO), which will become the flagship organization representing the interests of the U.S. textile industry (textile mills and texile product mills which produce fibers, yarns, fabrics, home textiles and industrial textiles). This new movement could strengthen the voice of the U.S. textile industry in Washington DC, but at the same time can also be read as a sign of the declining industry base of AMTAC and NCTO.

The press release of the merger can be downloaded from here

Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

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From Just Style, March 2013

Textile and clothing industry groups on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed the news that the EU and the US are to commence talks on the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated.

European Union (EU) clothing and textile industry association Euratex has hailed the launch of talks between the United States and the EU to forge what the European Commission calls the “biggest bilateral trade deal ever,” saying EU exporters will benefit.

A deal, once sealed, could eliminate American duties as high as 19%, says Euratex.

The EU’s textile and clothing industry already has a positive trade balance with the US. “Tariffs are still high in the US” for textile and clothing, Euratex president Alberto Paccanelli has stressed.

And it is worse when it comes to exporting products containing wool where the “duties are generally higher, sometimes above 19%,” Luisa Santos, head of international trade at Euratex, told just-style.

So “we expect to have duty-free access from the entry into force of the agreement and we are willing to give the same benefit to the US,” Ms Santos noted. With exports being highly price-sensitive, an elimination of the duties could “help substantially our competitiveness in the market.”

The EU’s textile and clothing exports to the US have been steadily increasing and are already substantial. In 2009, these exports stood at EUR2.8bn (US$3.7bn) and in 2010, they rose to EUR3.3bn, while they reached EUR3.7bn in 2011.

In negotiations, the EU would have a “forward looking approach” in terms of tariff and duty-free access from day one, according to Santos.

US sees opportunity

There was also optimism from American importers and retailers. Julie Hughes, president of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA), said a free trade agreement “presents a terrific opportunity” to remove duties and resolve regulatory issues that hold back trade between the US and the EU.

“We are especially enthusiastic about the launch of the US-EU trade negotiations,” Hughes told just-style adding: “Many people don’t realise that the EU is actually one of the top destinations for US exports of yarns, fabrics, and apparel” or that US brands import yarns and fabrics from the EU to manufacture ‘Made in the USA’ garments.

However some US groups are concerned because of different tax and regulatory regimes between the two regions.

“We are eagerly watching how the US government is going to engage with the EU,” said David Trumbull, vice president of the USA’s National Textile Association.

He is concerned about the fact that the US does not have the comprehensive sales tax systems in place in Europe, which do not apply for exports. Meanwhile, American producers can pay more through income tax or corporate tax: so US exporters could be placed at a comparative tax disadvantage, also having to pay VAT in Europe.

He said: “We do not want to get subjected to double taxation when exporting to the EU while EU producers get away with paying import duties to the US.”

Other issues to discuss

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the European Commission is compiling an impact study on “which sector benefits how”, said Helene Banner, EU trade spokesperson. The study will be released in two months.

An earlier report from the EU-US High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG) had, noted Banner, recommended “eliminating all duties on bilateral trade, with a substantial elimination of tariffs upon entry into force, and a phasing out of all but the most sensitive tariffs in a short time frame.”

But there are host of other issues to discuss, notably, labelling, safety and consumer protection, during clothing and textile talks.

One issue is that “the information that has to be included on the label is more extensive in the US than in the EU,” Ms Santos stressed. For instance, the US has mandatory origin labelling – which is currently only a (recent) proposal in the EU.

And when it comes to safety and consumer protection, the US has its own legislation that varies from the EU. – for example requirements in terms of testing.

Santos said it is important to focus on “harmonisation to reduce costs for companies, especially small-and-medium enterprises in both sides of the Atlantic”.

Brussels and Washington aim to conclude the talks “ideally in about two years from now,” said EU trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht: “But more paramount than speed is achieving an ambitious deal.”

The European Commission will present draft negotiating directives to the EU Council of Ministers for approval in March and similar proposals are being sent to the US Congress. “Both sides aim to advance fast once negotiations are started,” added Banner.

Outlook of the U.S. Textile Industry in 2013

The latest industry outlook proposed by the Textile World argues that in 2013 the U.S. textile industry will improve industry strategy and planning in the following areas:

  • increased management emphasis in such areas as sourcing, inventory control
  • use of more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment
  • new and upgraded consumer products,
  • more ecologically friendly offerings
  • more Made-in-USA labels

 Don’t misunderstand/misinterpret these terms. The proposed strategies actually tell us:

1. the U.S. textile industry will become even more capitalized in production (as the result of “using more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment”).

2. the success of the U.S. textile industry relies on import (that’s why “management of sourcing” is suggested to be emphasized), despite the intension to promote “made in USA” label which has more to do with the current “rules of origin” defining the nationality of the products.

3. the softgoods industry (textile, apparel and related retailing) is a highly buyer-driven industry. Even textile mills have realized the importance of understanding and directly reaching the consumers.

4. sustainability is a major factor driving technical reform and upgrading in the textile industry. Other than the environmental concerns, there is another strategy behind the efforts: when the U.S. textile industry is fully ready to “be able to produce in a sustainable way”, it will ask for legislation support to require “everybody”(including imported products) to meet the same environmental standards(professionally, we call it “technical barriers of trade”). Developing countries can compete on price, but definitely cannot compete on technology and capital which are the basis of achieving “sustainability”.  Bu then, you will see sustainability becomes a real game changer.     

 Another relevant forecast made by the article “But holding these costs down through efficiency gains can also have a negative impact —namely, a smaller industry workforce. In the textile sector, for instance, squeezed by productivity gains, overall employment should drop from 232,000 in 2012 to near 209,000 by 2015.” As we menioned in the class, technology kills jobs too, although new types of jobs will be created at the same time–but with totally different skill requirements.

Is Textile and Apparel Manufacturing Coming back to the U.S.?

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output growth rate

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employment growth rate

Preliminary Findings:

1. As suggested by numerous studies, the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole demonstrated a robust V-shaped recovery from the 2008 financial crisis in terms of industry output.   Growth rate of the industry output from 2010-2011 was also among the highest in the past 10 years.

2. There is no sign yet that textile and apparel (T&A) manufacturing is coming back to the U.S, despite suggested popularity of “insourcing” as result of rising labor cost in China. However, the decline rate of apparel manufacturing in the U.S. seemed to be slowing down.

3. Jobless recovery happened both in the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole and in the T&A manufacturing sectors. Particularly, the U.S. T&A industry respectively lost 21.0% and 25.6% of its manufacturing jobs from 2008-2012 compared with only 10.8% decline of employment in the manufacturing sector over the same period.  Based on the current data, it can be concluded that a sizable return of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. T&A industry would hardly occur at least in the near future.

Sheng Lu

How many U.S. consumers are willing to spend $1,300 for a blazer, $170 for a dress shirt, $80 for a tie and $390 for a pair of jeans?

Recently, WSJ wrote a story about apparel “made in USA”. Although apparel manufacturing will never disappear in the U.S. (as the case elsewhere in the world), neither is it likely that those lost labor-intensive manufacturing jobs in the apparel sector will come back in the future. Why? Just ask yourself: Am I willing to spend $1,300 for a blazer, $170 for a dress shirt, $80 for a tie and $390 for a pair of jeans? These are the price tags associated with “Made in USA” for apparel.

Apparel is not a single case. If you’d like to enjoy your iPhone “Made in USA”, please add two “00” to the current price tag. Like it or not?

Similar questions can also be raised to the Europeans, Chinese, Koreans and everyone else in the world. For example, what will happen if China does not import U.S. cotton but totally relies on its domestic supply? What will happen if each country tries to produce their own air plane instead of using Boeing’s aircraft? How about European retailers only accept credit card issued by an European financial service provider and reject Visa or America Express? And how long will it take to deliver a package to Asia if FedEx and UPS are not allowed to operate in these regions? Will these “changes” improve or worsen people’s daily life? The answer is obvious.

Globalization does not mean “Made in China”nor “Made in USA”. Rather, it means “Made in the World” based on each country’s comparative advantage, it means getting access to the world resources and using them more wisely and more efficiently. Why not everyone engages in doing something they are good at doing and then exchange? This is why we go grocery instead of growing vegetables nor raising cows by ourselves today. 

Globalization also means a product now can reach the world market beyond the limited domestic market. But a country can only successfully export when another country is willing to import. This is why we need to support trade liberalization so that every country can export more of those products they are competitive in making. And definitely more jobs will be created domestically. I mean every country that engages in such global “exchange”.

We no longer live in the 15th century when the Mercantilism was born. In the 21st century, export is good and import is equally good for the economy. Embrace globalization and enjoy better life~  

Sheng Lu 

Data source: American  Apparel and Footwear Association (2012)

Data source: U.S.-China Business Council

TPP and the U.S. Textile Manufacturing Industry

The Congressional Research Service just released its most recent study on the U.S. textile manufacturing industry and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiation. This is also one of the limited reference available so far that specifically addresses the sectoral impacts of TPP.

Overall, this report did a good job of compiling latest statistics showing the operation of the regional trade & production network between the United States and those developing countries in central and south America. It also discusses why the U.S. textile industry appears to be very nervous about Vietnam.

However, the study wasn’t able to quantify the impact of TPP, which leaves potential for future studies. On the other hand, although debates over TPP centers upon the rules of origin, we shall not forget about foreign investment–especially when geographically Vietnam is very close to China, Japan and South Korea. Even yarn-forward is adopted, why cannot Chinese factories move their factories to Vietnam? It shall be noted that China’s economy is undergoing structural change and it’s the time for some Chinese factories to “go offshore”. 

Full text of the report can be found here.