U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement (Updated: September 2019)

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On 16 September 2019, the Trump administration notified U.S. Congress of its intent to enter into a trade agreement on “tariff barriers” with Japan as well as an “executive agreement” on digital trade. According to the announcement, the Trump administration plans to utilize Section 103(a) of the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority law, which allows the president to modify tariffs WITHOUT congressional approval. While details of the tariff agreement are not yet available, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in August said the deal with Japan would focus on beef, pork, wheat, dairy products, wine, and ethanol, as well as on industrial goods.

The 16 September notification also says the Trump administration will “further negotiations with Japan to achieve a comprehensive trade agreement that results in more fair and reciprocal trade between the United States and Japan.” Such a more comprehensive trade agreement, however, will require congressional approval.

On December 21, 2018, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released negotiating objectives of the proposed U.S.-Japan Free Trade Agreement (USJTA). Overall, USJTA aims to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers to achieve fairer and more balanced trade between the two countries. Regarding the textiles and apparel sector, USTR says it will “secure duty-free access for U.S. textile and apparel products and seek to improve competitive opportunities for exports of U.S. textile and apparel products while taking into account U.S. import sensitivities” during the negotiation. USJTA also will “establish origin procedures for the certification and verification of rules of origin that promote strong enforcement, including with respect to textiles.”

Should the newly announced U.S.-Japan trade deal remove the tariffs for textiles and apparel traded between the two countries, the overall economic impact on related trade flows could be modest. Data from the UNComtrade shows that in 2018 U.S. imported $656 million textiles (SITC 26 and 65) and $88 million apparel (SITC 84) from Japan, accounting for 2.1% and 0.1% of total U.S. textile and apparel imports respectively. Meanwhile, in 2018 Japan imported around $353 million textiles and $121 million apparel from the U.S., accounting for 3.7% and 0.4% of Japan’s total textile and apparel imports that year respectively.

In comparison, over 70% of U.S. textile and apparel exports went to the Western-Hemisphere and U.S. imported textiles and apparel mostly from NAFTA & CAFTA-DR members and other Asian countries (such as China and Vietnam). Likewise, Japan also has a much closer trade tie with other Asian countries because of the regional textile and apparel trade patterns (or commonly known as “factory Asia”).

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On the other hand, the elimination of tariffs and potentially non-tariff barriers under the U.S.-Japan trade deal could expand the bilateral trade flows for technical textiles. Notably, the top categories of U.S. textile and apparel exports to Japan in 2018 were mostly technical textiles such as specialty and industrial fabrics, filament yarns, and non-woven textiles. Likewise, the top categories of Japan’s textile and apparel exports to the U.S. in 2018 also include special-purpose fabric, non-woven fabric, and synthetic filament fabrics.

Additionally, the textiles and apparel-specific rules of origin (RoO) is likely to remain a heated debate in the US-Japan trade negotiation. To protect the interests of the U.S. textile industry and the Western-Hemisphere regional textile and apparel supply chain, most free trade agreements enacted in the United States adopt the so-called “yarn-forward” RoO. Even though the U.S.-Japan trade agreement may not be a too big deal economically, the U.S. textile industry is unlikely to give up the RoO fight. However, most free trade agreements enacted in Japan adopt more liberal fabric-forward rules of origin (or commonly called “double transformation”). As textile and apparel production in Japan is increasingly integrated with other Asian countries, the strict “yarn-forward” RoO could prevent Japanese textile and apparel exporters from enjoying the preferential duty benefits under the U.S.-Japan trade agreement fully.

New CRS Report: Textile and Apparel Sectors Disagree on Certain Provisions of the Proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement

The study is available HERE

Key findings:

While U.S. textile manufacturers and the apparel and retail industries have expressed overall support for the newly reached US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA or NAFTA2.0), textile producers and the apparel sector still hold divergent views on certain provisions:

Textile “Yarn-Forward” Rule of Origin

USMCA vs. NAFTA1.0: The USMCA will continue to adopt the “yarn-forward” rules of origin. The USMCA will also newly require sewing thread, coated fabric, narrow elastic strips, and pocketing fabric used in apparel and other finished products to be made in a USMCA country to qualify for duty-free access to the United States.

U.S. textile industry: U.S. textile manufacturers almost always support a strict “yarn-forward” rules of origin in U.S free trade agreements and they support eliminating exceptions to the “yarn forward” rule as well. The National Council of Textile Organization (NCTO) estimates that a yearly USMCA market for sewing thread and pocketing fabric of more than $300 million.

U.S. apparel and retail industries: The U.S. apparel industry opposes “yarn forward” and argues that apparel should be considered of North American origin under a more flexible regional “cut and sew” standard, which would provide maximum flexibility for sourcing, including the use of foreign-made yarns and fabrics.

Tariff Preference Levels (TPL) for Textiles and Apparel

USMCA vs. NAFTA1.0: With some adjustments, the USMCA would continue a program that allows duty-free access for limited quantities of wool, cotton, and man-made fiber apparel made with yarn or fabric produced or obtained from outside the NAFTA region, including yarns and fabrics from China and other Asian suppliers.

U.S. textile industry: The textile industry contends China is a major beneficiary of the current NAFTA TPL mechanism, and it strongly pushed for its complete elimination in the USMCA.

U.S. apparel and retail industries: U.S. imports of textiles and apparel covered by the tariff preference level mechanism supply 13% of total U.S. textile and apparel imports from Canada and Mexico. Apparel producers assert that these exceptions give regional producers flexibility to use materials not widely produced in North America.

Viewpoints on other Provisions in USMCA

U.S. textile industry: The U.S. textile industry also opposes the USMCA newly allows visible lining fabric for tailored clothing could be sourced from China or other foreign suppliers, and it would permit up to 10% of a garment’s content, by weight, to come from outside the USMCA region (up from 7% in NAFTA1.0). The U.S. textile industry also welcomes that the USMCA would add specific textile verification and customs procedures aimed at preventing fraud and transshipment. Additionally, the U.S. textile industry is also pleased that the USMCA would end the Kissell Amendment. The Kissell Amendment is an exception in NAFTA that allows manufacturers from Canada and Mexico to qualify as “American” sources when Department of Homeland Security (DHS) buys textiles, clothing, and footwear using appropriated funds (about $30 million markets for textiles, clothing, and shoes altogether).

U.S. apparel and retail industries: Apparel importers are of concern that the USMCA continue to incorporate the existing NAFTA short supply procedure, which is extremely difficult to get a new item approved and added to the list, limiting their flexibility to source apparel with inputs from outside North America.

Finally, the report argues that “Regardless of whether the USMCA takes effect, the global competitiveness of U.S. textile producers and U.S.-headquartered apparel firms may depend more on their ability to compete against Asian producers than on the USMCA trade rules.

Related reading:

Apparel Specific Rules of Origin in NAFTA 2.0 (US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement)

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The full article is available HERE

Key findings:

First, in general, USMCA still adopts the so-called “yarn-forward” rules of origin. This means that fibers may be produced anywhere, but each component starting with the yarn used to make the garments must be formed within the free trade area – that is, by USMCA members. 

Second, other than the source of yarns and fabrics, USMCA now requires that some specific parts of an apparel item (such as pocket bag fabric) need to use inputs made in the USMCA region so that the finished apparel item can qualify for the import duty-free treatment.

Third, USMCA allows a relatively more generous De minimis than NAFTA 1.0.

Fourth, USMCA seems to be a “balanced deal” that has accommodated the arguments from all sides regarding the tariff preference level (TPL) mechanism:

  • 1) Compared with NAFTA, USMCA will cut the TPL level, but only to those product categories with a low TPL utilization rate;
  • 2) Compared with NAFTA, USMCA will expand the TPL level for a few product categories with a high TPL utilization rate.

Fifth, USMCA will make no change to the Commercial availability/short supply list mechanism in NAFTA 1.0.

Sixth, it remains to be seen whether USMCA will boost Made-in-the-USA fibers, yarns and fabrics by limiting the use of non-USMCA textile inputs. For example, while the new agreement expands the TPL level for U.S. cotton/man-made fiber apparel exports to Canada (currently with a 100 percent utilization rate), these apparel products are NOT required to use U.S.-made yarns and fabrics. The utilization rate of USMCA will also be important to watch in the future.

About USMCA

On 30 September 2018, The United States reached an agreement with Canada, alongside Mexico on the updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

Before taking into effect, USMCA still needs to be ratified by all member countries. In the United States, the earliest that President Trump can sign the agreement will be 11/29/2018 (i.e., 90 days after notifying the Congress). The U.S. International Trade Commission has until 3/14/2019 (i.e., 150 days after President signing the agreement) to release an assessment of the new trade agreement. Afterward, the Trump Administration will need to work with the Congress to develop legislation to approve and implement the agreement.

Regional Textile and Apparel Supply Chains–Questions from FASH455

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NAFTA and Textile and Apparel Rules of Origin

#1 How do rules of origin (RoO) and free trade agreement (FTA) regulations affect speed to market in apparel sourcing? Do countries who are part of an FTA find it to be easier to get to market in a shorter amount of time if they are working with other FTA members? Or could RoO slow down the production process because producers have to be more careful about compliance with the complicated RoO?

#2 Why or why not the “yarn forward” rules of origin remains an effective way to promote textile and apparel production in the Western-Hemisphere?  What other options are available to improve the competitiveness of the Western-Hemisphere textile and apparel supply chain?

#3 What would happen to the Western-Hemisphere textile and apparel supply chain should NAFTA no longer exist?

#4 Should NAFTA be responsible for the loss of US apparel manufacturing jobs? Any hard evidence?

#5 If you were U.S. trade negotiators, what would you do with TPL in NAFTA given the competing views from the U.S. textile industry and U.S. fashion brands and retailers?

The Outlook of “Factory-Asia”

#6 From the perspective of the U.S. textile and apparel industry, is it a good idea for the United States to reach free trade agreement (FTA) with Asian countries? If so, what countries should be included in the new FTA? If not, why?

#7 How can U.S. companies get involved in the Asia-based textile and apparel supply chain?

#8 Why or why not is the “Flying geese model” unique to Asia? Can the model be replicated in America too?

(Welcome to join our online discussion. Please mention the question number in your reply)

CRS Releases Report on NAFTA Renegotiation and US Textile Manufacturing

23120124_10155817882672812_4644791366056415981_oKey findings:

U.S. textile and apparel trade with NAFTA members

  • The United States maintains a bilateral trade surplus in yarns and fabrics ($4.1 billion in 2016) as well as made-up textiles ($720 million in 2016) with NAFTA members.
  • Regarding apparel, the United States had a trade surplus with Canada of $1.4 billion and a trade deficit with Mexico of $2.7 billion in 2016.

Impact of NAFTA on employment and production in the U.S. textile and apparel industry

  • The effects of NAFTA are NOT straightforward, and the drop in U.S. domestic textile and apparel production and jobs cannot be blamed solely on NAFTA.
  • The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) concluded that imports of textiles had a tiny effect on U.S. textile industry employment (a 0.4% decline) from 1998 to 2014, which covers most of the period since NAFTA’s enactment. However, the collapse of the U.S. domestic apparel industry and changing clothing tastes may have had a more significant impact on domestic textile production.
  • There is little evidence that NAFTA was the decisive factor for the loss of jobs in the U.S. apparel manufacturing sector, given that the major growth in apparel manufacturing for the U.S. market has occurred in Asian countries that receive no preferences under NAFTA.

Impact of the Tariff Preference Level (TPL) in NAFTA

  • In nearly every year since 2010, Mexico has come close to exporting the maximum allowable amount of cotton and man-made fiber apparel with duty-free foreign content. Canada’s TPL fill rates are typically highest for cotton and man-made fiber fabric and made-up products but are not usually fully filled.
  • It is not clear that eliminating the TPL program would result in a substantial return of textile production or jobs to the United States; if it were to raise the cost of Mexican apparel production, it could instead result in imports from other countries displacing imports from Mexico.
  • Other than U.S. fashion brands and retailers, Mexico and Canada reportedly oppose the elimination of the NAFTA TPL program too.

 Possible Effects of Potential NAFTA Modification

  • Mexico’s focus on basic apparel items suggests that S. importers could quickly source from elsewhere if duty savings under NAFTA are eliminated. However, even now, some U.S. fashion companies say the duty savings are not worth the time and resources required to comply with the NAFTA rules of origin and documentation requirements. In 2016, roughly 16% of qualifying textile and apparel imports from NAFTA failed to take advantage of the duty-free benefits and instead paid applicable tariffs.
  • Whatever the outcome of the NAFTA renegotiation, in the medium and long run, the profitability of the North American textile and apparel industry will likely depend less on NAFTA preferences such as yarn forward and more on the capacity of producers in the region to innovate to remain globally competitive.
  • One change in NAFTA proposed by the United States would require motor vehicles to have 85% North American content and 50% U.S. content to qualify for tariff-free treatment. If auto manufacturers were to import more passenger cars from outside the NAFTA region and pay the 2.5% U.S. import duty rather than complying with stricter domestic content requirements, automotive demand for U.S.-made technical textiles could be adversely affected.
  • If the TPP-11 countries strike a trade deal, one possible effect is that Canada and Mexico may import more textile and apparel products from other TPP countries, including Vietnam. This could ultimately be a disadvantage for U.S.-based producers. How the inclusion of Canada and Mexico in a fresh TPP-11 arrangement would affect their participation in NAFTA is unknown.

The full report can be downloaded from HERE

NAFTA Renegotiation and Textile-Specific Rules of Origin in Free Trade Agreements: Discussion Questions from FASH455

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(Photo credit: Steve Lamar, AAFA)

#1 The US textile industry and the fashion retailers/brands/importers have very different priorities regarding modernizing and updating NAFTA. Do you believe that a compromise acceptable to both sides can be found? If so, what do you believe that compromise can be?

#2 Overall, why or why not do you think the U.S. textile and apparel industry is a beneficiary of NAFTA over the past decade? From the perspective of the U.S. textile and apparel industry, should or should not reducing the U.S. trade deficit be a prioritized objective in the NAFTA renegotiation?

#3 What will happen to the U.S. textile and apparel industry if NAFTA is gone? How should U.S.-based textile and apparel companies respond to NAFTA’s termination?

#4 In your view, why or why not the “yarn-forward” rules of origin are outdated in today’s global-based textile and apparel supply chain?

#5 Why do you think the “yarn-forward” rules of origin vary from free trade agreement (FTA) to FTA? Do you think there’s a way to make a universal “yarn-forward” rule for all U.S. FTAs?

#6 Why are the textile-specific rules of origin under free trade agreements so complex? What potential issues do you think can arise because of the complexity of these rules?

(Please feel free to join our online discussion. In your comment, please mention the question #)

US Tables Proposal Aimed at Limiting the Yarn-Forward Exceptions in NAFTA Renegotiation

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According to Inside US Trade, in the third round the NAFTA renegotiation (September 23-27, 2017), the United States has put forward several possible changes to the existing rules related to textile and apparel in the agreement:

  1. USTR proposes to eliminate the tariff preference level (TPL) in NAFTA. The goal of eliminating TPL is to limit the exceptions to the yarn-forward rules of origin and “incentivize” more production in the NAFTA region as advocated by the U.S. textile industry.
  2. As a potential replacement for TPL, USTR also proses to add a short supply list mechanism to NAFTA, but details remain unclear (e.g., whether the list will be temporary or permanent; the application process).
  3. USTR further proposes a new chapter devoted to textile and apparel in NAFTA in line with more recent agreements negotiated by the U.S.. The current NAFTA does not include a textile chapter.

USTR’s proposal to remove TPL in NAFTA has met strong opposition from the U.S. apparel industry, fashion retailers, and brands as well as their partners in Mexico and Canada. According to these industry groups:

  • Eliminating TPLs would disrupt supply chains that have been in place for more than two decades.
  • Eliminating TPLs would not move production back to the U.S. but would instead further incentivize sourcing from outside the NAFTA region and put textile and apparel factories in the region out of business. For example, some apparel factories remain production in the NAFTA region largely because TPL allows them to use third-party textile inputs and the finished goods can still be treated as NAFTA originating.
  • Without the TPL, companies would opt to produce textile and apparel products in the least expensive way possible, likely outside the NAFTA region, and ship items into North America despite being hit with most-favored-nation (MFN) tariffs.
  • A short supply list would not ease the supply chain disruptions that would result from the removal of the TPLs because there is no guarantee products formerly subject to the TPL would make it onto a new NAFTA short supply list.

A potential compromise could involve a reduction in Canadian and Mexican TPLs to the U.S. and an increase in the U.S. TPLs to Mexico and Canada, which could boost the U.S. trade surplus in textiles and apparel with its NAFTA partners and throw a bone to the U.S. textile industry by ostensibly incentivizing domestic production.

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Fact-check about TPL

TPL was included in NAFTA as a compromise for adopting the yarn-forward rules of origin in the agreement. Before NAFTA, the US-Canada trade agreement adopted the less restrictive fabric-forward rules of origin.

The TPL mechanism has played a critical role in facilitating the textile and apparel (T&A) trade and production collaboration between the United States and Canada, in particular, the export of Canada’s wool suits to the United States and the U.S. cotton or man-made fiber apparel to Canada. Statistics from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) show that in 2016 more than 70% of the value of Canada’s apparel exports to the United States under NAFTA utilized the TPL provision, including almost all wool apparel products. Over the same period, the TPL fulfillment rate for U.S. cotton or man-made fiber apparel exports to Canada reached 100%, suggesting a high utilization of the TPL mechanism by U.S. apparel firms too (Global Affairs Canada, 2017). Several studies argue that without the TPL mechanism, the U.S.-Canada bilateral T&A trade volume could be in much smaller scale (USITC, 2016). Notably, garments assembled in the United States and Canada often contained non-NAFTA originating textile inputs, which failed them to meet the “yarn-forward” rules of origin typically required for the preferential duty treatment under NAFTA.

Related articles:

 

US Textile and Apparel Industry Associations Comment on NAFTA Renegotiation

This week, several leading U.S. textile and apparel industry associations submitted their comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) regarding the renegotiation objectives of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Below is a summary of these organizations’ viewpoints based on their submissions:

NAFTA renegotiation

Appendix: Submitted written comments

2016 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study Released

The 2018 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study is now available
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The report can be downloaded from HERE

Key Findings of the study:

I. Business environment and outlook in the U.S. Fashion Industry

  • Overall, respondents remain optimistic about the five-year outlook for the U.S. fashion industry. “Market competition in the United States” is ranked the top business challenge this year, which, for the first time since 2014, exceeds the concerns about “increasing production or sourcing cost.”

II. Sourcing practices in the U.S. fashion industry

  • U.S. fashion companies are more actively seeking alternatives to “Made in China” in 2016, but China’s position as the No.1 sourcing destination seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, sourcing from Vietnam and Bangladesh may continue to grow over the next two years, but at a slower pace.
  • U.S. fashion companies continue to expand their global reach and maintain truly global supply chains. Respondents’ sourcing bases continue to expand, and more countries are considered potential sourcing destinations. However, some companies plan to consolidate their sourcing bases in the next two years to strengthen key supplier relationships and improve efficiency.
  • Today, ethical sourcing and sustainability are given more weight in U.S. fashion companies’ sourcing decisions. Respondents also see unmet compliance (factory, social and/or environmental) standards as the top supply chain risk.

III. Trade policy and the U.S. fashion industry

  • Overall, U.S. fashion companies are very excited about the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and they look forward to exploring the benefits after TPP’s implementation.
  • Thanks to the 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. fashion companies have shown more interest in sourcing from the region. In particular, most respondents see the “third-country fabric” provision a critical necessity for their company to source in the AGOA region.
  • Free trade agreements (FTAs) and trade preference programs remain underutilized in 2016 and several FTAs, including NAFTA and CAFTA-DR, are utilized even less than in previous years. U.S. fashion companies also call for further removal of trade barriers, including restrictive rules of origin and remaining high tariffs.

The benchmarking study was conducted between March 2016 and April 2016 based on a survey of 30 executives from leading U.S. fashion and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers. In terms of business size, 92 percent of respondents report having more than 500 employees in their companies, while 84 percent of respondents report having more than 1,000 employees, suggesting that the findings well reflect the views of the most influential players in the U.S. fashion industry.

For the benchmarking studies in 2014 and 2015, please visit: https://www.usfashionindustry.com/resources/industry-benchmarking-study

FASH455 Exclusive Interview with Julia K. Hughes, President of the United States Fashion Industry Association

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Julia K. Hughes is President of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), which represents textile and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers based in the United States and doing business globally. Founded in 1989 as the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel with the goal of eliminating the global apparel quota system, USFIA now works to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers that impede the industry’s ability to trade freely and create economic opportunities in the United States and abroad. Ms. Hughes represents the fashion industry in front of the U.S. government and international governments and stakeholders.

Ms. Hughes has testified before Congress and the Executive Branch on textile trade issues. She is recognized as an expert in textile and apparel issues and frequently speaks at international conferences including the Apparel Sourcing Show, MAGIC, Foreign Service Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, Cotton Sourcing Summit, International Textiles and Clothing Bureau, Young Presidents’ Organization, World Trade Organization Beijing International Forum, and others.

Ms. Hughes served as the first President of the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) and is one of the founders of the Washington Chapter of Women in International Trade (WIIT) and WIIT Charitable Trust. In 1992, she received the Outstanding Woman in International Trade award and in 2008, the WIIT Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Hughes has an M.A. in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Special thanks to Samantha Sault, Vice President of Communication for the U.S. Fashion Industry Association for facilitating and supporting this exclusive interview. Ms. Sault is responsible for the development and execution of the association’s communications strategy, including public relations, policy research and messaging, and social media. Prior to joining the association, Ms. Sault honed her communications expertise at DCI Group, a global public affairs communications firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in media as a web editor and fact checker at The Weekly Standard and an editorial assistant at Policy Review, the journal of the Hoover Institution. She began her career in the apparel industry at 17 at abercrombie kids in Bethesda, Maryland.

Interview Part

Sheng Lu: Our students are interested in knowing who the members of the U.S. Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) are. Can you name a few of your member companies?

Julia Hughes: Our members range from major global brands and fast-fashion retailers, to small importers and wholesalers. While all of our members must be doing business in the United States, our membership roster also includes some international companies with a retail presence in the United States. Some of our most actively engaged members include iconic brands and retailers like Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, Levi Strauss & Co., JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, PVH Corp., and American Eagle Outfitters. We also represent small and medium-size importers, wholesalers, and manufacturers that you might not know by name, but supply to many of your favorite brands and retailers—companies like Michar, MGF Sourcing, and Golden Touch Imports, to name a few.

Sheng Lu: The USFIA is an advocate for trade liberalization and removal of trade barriers. Can you talk with us about the benefits of free trade, especially for the fashion industry both in the United States and globally?

Julia Hughes: As you know, USFIA was originally founded in 1989 (then known as the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel) with the mission to eliminate the global quota system. We were successful! But of course, as you also know, that work is not over. The quotas may have gone away, but there still are import barriers that are unique to the apparel industry. USFIA member companies continue to face some of the United States’ highest tariffs. Textiles and apparel, combined with footwear, still account for some of the highest peaks in the U.S. tariff schedule, with many double-digit tariffs and a high of 32 percent.

Not only are these tariffs higher than on other products, but these tariffs also are a regressive tax. We believe it is simply wrong for a single mom to pay a 32 percent import tax for her baby’s onesies and a 16 percent tariff for her baby’s booties, while the wealthy pay a 1.2 percent tariff for their silk scarves. In total, apparel tariffs take more than $10 billion out of the pockets of hard-working Americans annually. So eliminating these tariffs would be an immediate benefit to American consumers and to American families.

But even removing these tariffs would not mean that there is “free trade.” For example, the fact that the United States maintains these peak textile and apparel tariffs creates problems for new policy initiatives to expand export markets for U.S. products. Market access for American brands and exports is hindered by prohibitively high tariffs in attractive third country markets such as India and Brazil. Our own peak tariffs only encourage other governments to maintain their own high apparel and textile tariffs to “protect” their domestic industries. American brands such as Levi’s and Polo are among the most recognized brands in the world. American yarn spinners and fabric makers operate highly efficient operations that make them among the world’s most competitive producers. For all of these companies, we need every opportunity to remove barriers to trade.

There is a great opportunity to create high-paying jobs here in the United States, too. Fashion brands and retailers offer quality design, product development, logistics, sourcing, and service jobs in the United States, along with manufacturing jobs. These jobs are supported by global value chains, and will be on track to grow IF free trade agreements contain rules of origin and market access provisions that will decrease the cost of those fashion products. This would not only help the brands and retailers grow and create more jobs, but also help consumers by providing access to affordable, high quality apparel.

Finally, free trade isn’t just about tariffs – but also non-tariff barriers like regulations, certifications, and testing requirements all represent non-tariff barriers to trade. And since today’s global brands are selling everywhere from the United States to the UK to Japan to Dubai, we are working to eliminate these barriers, too.

Sheng Lu: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a buzzword for the fashion industry, with Vietnam and China at the core of the discussion. Many people see Vietnam as an alternative sourcing destination to China for labor-intensive apparel and footwear products. You’ve visited both Vietnam and China recently. What’s your first-hand observation? How competitive is “Made in Vietnam” compared with “Made in China”?

Julia Hughes: The TPP is a top priority for USFIA and for our member companies. But unlike some, we do not see the TPP as creating an either/or scenario for sourcing apparel and footwear. China remains the top supplier to the U.S. market, and we do not see that changing any time soon. The breadth of manufacturing operations in China, combined with the state-of-the-art infrastructure and logistics operations, mean that sourcing executives are comfortable with placing orders and knowing that they will get the quality product that they want delivered on time.

However, you are correct that Vietnam is seen as an alternative sourcing destination.—not just by U.S. sourcing executives, but also for Chinese companies. Both the TPP and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement make Vietnam an especially attractive destination for making apparel and for investments in manufacturing yarns and fabrics. But Vietnam is not necessarily the destination for companies searching for lower prices.

Sheng Lu: In the 2015 USFIA Benchmarking Study, around one-third of respondents report sourcing from 6-10 different countries and another one-third report sourcing from 11-20 different countries. What are some of the reasons that U.S. fashion companies today would choose to have such a diversified sourcing base?

Julia Hughes: There are a couple reasons why companies have such diversified sourcing bases. First, it is a holdover from the quota era, because companies were pretty much forced to diversify their sourcing since they couldn’t import everything from China. Following the elimination of the quotas in 2005, companies had cultivated trusted suppliers all over the world in countries as diverse as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Colombia, so there was no reason to leave these good suppliers after they had spent the time and resources developing their supply chain. Second, diversification is a method of risk management. There are lots of risks that could impact your supply chain—from natural disasters to labor strife to terrorist attacks. The last thing a company wants is to have all of their production in one place—because when disaster strikes, you won’t be able to get your product to your customers. By keeping a diverse supply chain, you can ensure that you’ll always have products moving to the shelves. Finally, different countries have different specialties—and truthfully, no one country can do it all. Companies don’t necessarily prefer to source fabric, yarn, zippers, and buttons from four different countries and ship to a fifth for cutting and sewing, but sometimes, that’s the way it must be done in order to produce the best product at the best price for your target customer.

Sheng Lu: We know that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been extended for another 10 years. How has the U.S. fashion industry reacted to the AGOA extension? Are U.S. consumers going to see more “Made in Africa” apparel in the retail stores?

Julia Hughes: USFIA member companies are definitely looking at sourcing opportunities in Africa after the extension of AGOA. Today a little more than 1 percent of U.S. apparel imports come from Sub-Saharan Africa—and there are only a few countries that ship apparel to the U.S. market. Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Madagascar are the major producers of apparel today – representing 87% of the U.S. imports. The ten-year extension of AGOA is allowing companies to take a fresh look at what is available to source in Africa today, as well as to plan to long-term growth. Both PVH and VF, for example, have been very public about their commitment to develop a vertically integrated industry in Ethiopia.

What is exciting is that new sourcing supply chains are opening up in Africa. While the level of U.S. imports remains low there are some growing suppliers. For example, during March 2016–a month when the overall U.S. apparel imports plunged by -21 percent compared to March 2015—there were a few Sub-Saharan African suppliers that bucked the trend. U.S. imports from Madagascar jumped by 160 percent, from Ethiopia by 83 percent, and from Ghana by 371 percent!

Sheng Lu: Textile and apparel trade policy is always one of the most challenging topics for students in FASH455. Many students wonder why the rules governing the global textile and apparel trade are always far more complicated than most other sectors. For example, in the past, students had to learn about the quota system, from the Short-term Arrangement (STA) to the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA). The quota system is gone, but it seems students now have to know even more “terms”: the yarn-forward rules of origin, short supply list, third country fabric provision, trade preference level (TPL) and earned import allowance… What makes the textile and apparel trade so unique in terms of trade regulations?

Julia Hughes: This is a great question–and one that does not have an easy answer. Absolutely, when I first started working with the industry, it was a revelation to understand about quotas and labeling requirements classification issues. Today, the industry is even more complicated. I think that a lot of the complexity today is due to protectionism. Negotiators looked for ways to limit the market opening impact of trade agreements, and to try to protect their domestic industry. This isn’t just an issue for the United States.  Starting with NAFTA in the 1990’s, the rules are more complicated in every free trade agreement—and none of the free trade agreements exactly matches the others. But the complexity isn’t just for FTAs, of course. Today, we also face more regulations, different labeling requirements for different countries (and unfortunately sometimes even different labels are required in different states!), and more testing and certification requirements.

Sheng Lu: Looking ahead in 2016, what important sourcing trends and trade patterns shall we expect in the U.S. fashion industry? What are the policy priorities for the USFIA this year?

Julia Hughes: The implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains at the top of our list of policy priorities. But implementation is still a long way off, especially since the U.S. Congress is unlikely to vote on the agreement before the November elections. We don’t expect to see a huge shift to sourcing in Vietnam, Malaysia, and the other TPP partners in 2016-2017, since duty-free treatment is a long way off, but we do expect to see companies taking a closer look at opportunities there—and it helps that Vietnam is already the #2 supplier to the United States, so many companies are already sourcing there. We’re also prioritizing completion of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (T-TIP) between the United States and European Union. The EU is a great source for luxury brands and companies manufacturing leather goods, but this agreement has an even greater potential in terms of regulatory harmonization, making it easier for many of our members to break into the retail markets in Europe. We’re also focused on enhancing the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA), cumulation of free trade agreements, and customs and ethical sourcing issues, too. As far as future trends, we’re looking forward to seeing the results of our third-annual Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, which will give us a lot of insight into what brands are thinking about sourcing and expansion!

Sheng Lu: Last but not least, our students wonder what makes you and your staff personally interested in the fashion industry. Particularly, through your daily work, how do you see the impact of the fashion industry in the 21st century global economy?

Julia Hughes: My path to the world of fashion is from the policy side. I was always interested in international policy and after graduating from Georgetown University and SAIS, I was fortunate to hear about an opportunity to be the Washington Representative for Associated Merchandising Corporation (AMC). It was a terrific opportunity to be engaged in policy discussions, but also to spend time with the buyers, with the sourcing teams, and also with the overseas offices and vendors to understand the impact on trade policy on the clothes we wear. Let’s face it, it is a shock to realize the way that Congressional actions, and negotiations, can determine whether a jacket is made with down, or synthetic fibers, or cotton–or maybe it is manufactured to qualify as a shirt instead of a jacket. It also is inspiring to work with industry executives who are committed to fashion as well as doing good for the global economy. Textiles and apparel has always been an industry that can be a gateway for economic development–and I have seen the positive impact by creating jobs where there were none before–as well as expanding U.S. jobs in design, product development and compliance.

Samantha Sault: I have always loved fashion—in fact, my very first job in high school was folding clothes and working the register at abercrombie kids at the mall in my hometown!—but I never thought about fashion as a career until I had been working for a few years after college. I started my career in political media in D.C., and eventually started covering the intersection of fashion and politics for various publications, including exciting events like New York Fashion Week and President Obama’s first inauguration (and the First Lady’s fabulous dresses). After five years in media and public affairs, I found my way to USFIA and the business and policy side of the fashion industry. The most inspiring part about working in fashion has been getting to know our contacts at our member companies, and seeing how committed they are not only to their brands, but also to ethical sourcing and compliance. These are not just buzzwords—I’ve learned firsthand that many of the individuals at our member companies are deeply committed to ensuring that they are doing the right thing in their supply chains from the factory floor (especially for women) to the retail store, and it has made me appreciate these brands even more than I already did.

–The End–

Why NCTO and Euratex Disagree on the Textile and Apparel Rules of Origin in T-TIP?

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In an April 13 press briefing, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) which represents the U.S. textile industry, insists the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) shall adopt the so called “yarn-forward” Rules of origin (RoO). Yarn-forward (or “triple transformation”) in T-TIP means, in order to receive preferential duty treatment provided under the trade agreement, yarns used in textile production in general need to be sourced either from the US or EU.  All 14 existing free trade agreements (FTA) in the United States adopt the yarn-forward RoO.

In comparison, in its position paper released in June 2015, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex), which represents the EU textile and apparel industry, favors a so called “fabric forward” RoO in T-TIP instead of “yarn-forward”. Fabric-forward (or “double transformation”) in T-TIP means in order to receive preferential duty treatment provided under the trade agreement, fabrics used in apparel production in general need to be sourced either from the US or EU, but yarns used in textile production can be sourced from anywhere in the world.

US

Exploring data at the 4-digit NAICS code level can find that the United States remains a leading yarn producer. Value of U.S. yarn production (NAICS 3131) even exceeded fabric production (NAICS 3132) in 2014. This means: 1) U.S. has sufficient capacity of yarn production; 2) it will be in the financial interests of the U.S. textile industry to encourage more use of U.S.-made yarns in textile production in the T-TIP region (i.e. pushing the “yarn-forward” RoO).

eu textile production

EU yarn import

However, data at the 4-digit NACE R.2 code level suggests that EU(28) was short of €5,643 million local supply of yarns (NACE C1310) for its manufacturing of fabrics (NACE C1320) in 2013 (latest statistics available). This figure well matched with the value of €4,514 million yarns that EU (28) imported from outside the region that year. Among these yarn imports (SITC 651), over half came from China (22%), Turkey (19%) and India (13%), whereas only 5% came from the United States. Should the “yarn-forward” RoO is adopted in T-TIP, EU textile and apparel manufacturers may face a shortage of yarn supply or see an increase of their sourcing & production cost at least in the short run.

Sheng Lu

The Global Journey of a Marks and Spencer Wool Suit

english suit

global travel

An interesting BBC article describes the global journey of a Marks and Spencer (M&S) wool suit:

  1. The suit was designed by M&S in-house team in UK
  2. Wool that makes up the suit came from Australia
  3. Raw wool was shipped from Australia to China for topping.
  4. Wool top was shipped from China to Italy for dying
  5. Dyed wool was shipped from Italy to Romania to be spun into yarn
  6. Yarn was shipped to Yorkshire, UK to be woven into cloth
  7. Cloth was shipped from Yorkshire, UK to Cambodia to be made into finished suit
  8. Finished suit was shipped back to UK to be sold at M&S retail stores

As noted by the article, such a global-based production model for M&S’s suit is increasingly typical in UK. What makes the issue controversial, however is that, the suit is labeled as “100% British cloth”. As “defined” by M&S, “British cloth means it is woven, dyed and finished in the UK”.

Similar debates also exist in the United States. In the past, even if a garment was cut and sewn in California but made of imported items, the tag still had to say, “Made in USA of imported fabric, zippers, buttons and thread.” But a new law which takes into effect on January 1, 2016 allows California manufacturers to attach the “Made in USA” label as long as no more than 5 percent of the wholesale value of the garment is made of imported materials.

Discussion questions:

  1. What are the driving forces behind apparel companies’ global-based production model?
  2. Is the clothing label “Made in ___” outdated in the 21st century?
  3. Do you support the new law which allows apparel labeled “Made in USA” to contain certain value of imported material? Why? Do we need such a regulation at all? Why or why not?

Changes in the Final Text of TPP Regarding Textile and Apparel Rules of Origin

tpp

The final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released by the New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade in January 2016 has made a few changes to the textiles and apparel specific rules of origin compared with the USTR version released in November 2015:

  1. “5407.94” is replaced by “5403.49”
  2. “or heading 54.08″ is replaced by ” or heading 54.04 through 54.08″
  3. Minor wording changes are made regarding 55.03 and 55.06-55.11
  4. TPP originating input of “54.04 through 54.07” is now required for 54.08 (Woven fabrics of artificial filament yarn, including woven fabrics obtained from materials of heading 5405)
  5. Rules of origin for HS96.19 (Sanitary towels (pads) and tampons, diapers and diaper liners for babies and similar articles, of any material are newly added.

Details of the changes can be downloaded from HERE

Top 10 Most Read FASH455 Blog Posts in 2015

top 10

 

1. Potential Impact of TPP on the Textile and Apparel Sector: A Summary of Recent Studies

2. 2014 World Textile Industry Labor Cost Comparison

3. Global Trade of Used Clothing (Updated: October 2015)

4. Market Size of the Global Textile and Apparel Industry: 2014 to 2018

5. When Will TPP Take Effect? Let’s look at the History

6. China to Become the World’s Largest Apparel Market in 2019

7. Are US Textile and Apparel Imports Using Free Trade Agreements?

8. 2015 US Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study Released

9. Exclusive Interview with Erin Ennis, Vice President, US-China Business Council

10. US Tariff Phaseout Schedule for Textile and Apparel in TPP by OTEXA Code

Textile and Apparel (T&A)-Specific Rules of Origin in TPP—Apparel Products

Textile and apparel (T&A)-specific rules of origin (RoO) for most apparel articles under TPP are known as the nickname “yarn forward”. “Yarn-forward “means preferential treatment under TPP will be allowed if the component determining classification meet BOTH the following two criteria:

  • knit or woven in TPP countries FROM yarn spun or extruded in TPP countries;
  • apparel is cut or knit to shape or both + sewn or otherwise assembled in TPP countries

In other words, “yarn forward” RoO not only requires the activity of apparel manufacturing must happen in one or more TPP countries, but also requires certain textile material used to make the apparel products must come from the TPP region.

The following is an example of how TPP describes “yarn-forward” rules of origin:

“A good is an originating good if it is produced entirely in one or more TPP countries by one or more producers using non-originating materials and each of the non-originating materials used in the production of the good satisfies any production process requirement, any applicable change in tariff classification requirement or any other requirement specified.”

yarn forward

The followings are details of T&A-specific RoO for apparel products in TPP compiled based on released TPP text. “Regular yarn-forward” means all textile material listed in the table must be TPP originating. Overall, TPP allows much fewer exceptions to “yarn-forward” rules than most existing free trade agreements in the United States (such as NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, and Columbia Free Trade Agreement).

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USTR Michael Froman Comments on the Textile and Apparel Chapter under TPP

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In an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations on October 15, 2015, U.S. Trade Reprehensive Michael Froman left a comment on the textile and apparel chapter (T&A) under TPP. He said that:”

“You know, we worked very hard to find solutions that could address the broad range of stakeholder interests here, even when we had conflicting interests here in the U.S. I’ll take textile as an example. You know, we have a domestic textiles industry that’s been investing in more production in the U.S., growing their employment in the U.S. And obviously we have a strong sector of our economy that brings in apparel from other countries, apparel importers and retailers. We worked very closely with both groups of stakeholders to come up with a solution, to come up with an outcome that we think both will be comfortable with and both will be supportive of. And that’s been very important to us to try and address the broad range of U.S. stakeholder interests, whether it’s labor, environment, importers, exporters, to make sure we’re covering everybody’s interests well.”

In the remarks, Forman also ruled out the possibility that TPP would be renegotiated. He said that:

“So this isn’t one of those agreements where, you know, you can, you know, reopen an issue or renegotiate a provision. This is one where, you know, every issue is tied to every other issue and every country’s outcome is balanced against every other country’s outcome. And so that’s the agreement that we’ll be putting forward under TPA for a vote by Congress.”

According to Inside U.S. Trade (October 9, 2015), the final TPP reflects some of the key priorities of the U.S. textile industry by allowing limited exceptions from the prevailing yarn-forward rules of origin and by including tariff phaseouts for “sensitive apparel items” of 10 to 12 years.

Besides the basket of goods that will become duty-free upon entry into force (which include cotton shirts and cotton sweaters), TPP sets up three other categories for tariff reductions on apparel:

TPP apparel

Major exceptions other than the “short supply list” mechanism under TPP include:

  • An “earned import allowance program for cotton pants made in Vietnam from third-country fabric by importing a specified amount of U.S. cotton pants fabric. This would allow cotton pants from Vietnam would enter the U.S. duty-free as soon as the agreement is implemented. It is said the ratio for the program is “close” to 1:1. However, for men’s cotton pants, there could be a 15 million square meter equivalents (SMEs) annual cap until year 10, after which it will increase to 20 million. There is no quantitative limit for the other types of cotton pants that can be shipped under the program, such as women’s, girls’ and boys’ pants.
  • A limited list of cut-and-sew items that Vietnam and other TPP countries can ship to the U.S. under the preferential TPP duty rate. These include synthetic baby clothes, travel goods including handbags, and bras.

Textile and Apparel in the 2015 US Trade Policy Agenda

Untitled

Two hearings were held on January 27 where US Trade Representative Michael Froman testified before the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee on the 2015 US Trade Policy Agenda. During the Senate hearing, two questions were directly related to the textile and apparel (T&A) industry:

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) expressed concerns that inclusion of several concessions requested by Vietnam regarding rule of origin and short supply list for T&A in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will result in severe job losses and potentially hurt the T&A industry in the Western Hemisphere. In response, Froman said that:

“We worked in the textile area through the yarn forward rule, the short supply list, rules of origin and customer enforcement and corporation to take these things into consideration. We’ve worked very closely with textile manufacturers in the US who are part of this supply chain with Central America to get the best of our understanding of what are the sensitivities are and take that into account in our negotiations.”

John Isakson (R-GA) raised the question about China’s recent cotton reserve & subsidy policy and its negative impact on the world cotton price which “has declined from 83-85 cents/pound not a long ago to 55-57 cents/pound recently.” Isakson wondered if anything USTR would do to address the problem, such as bringing the case to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). In response, Froman said that:

“The whole pattern of agriculture subsidies has changed a lot over the last ten to fifteen years. When (WTO) Doha Round was first started, focus on the subsidy was really the United States and the European Union. But in both of those areas subsidies have come down, while subsidies from China and India in the agriculture area have been increased. By some measures, China is now the largest subsidizer of cotton. We are engaging with them. We have conversations in the last couple of days also about that, about taking a fresh look at where subsidies have been provided, how it distorted the market and how that should play into the global trading negotiations. It is important to update our views on where the subsidies come from and what impact it has. For poor farmers in Africa, it doesn’t matter whether the subsidies come from the US or from China. It matters that the subsidy exists and so we will be engaged with China on this and create some disciplines around us. We are looking at all options out there. We are not yet determined whether there will be a (WTO DSB) case brought in that area.”

Other hot topics covered by the hearing include passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, creating jobs through trade, addressing agriculture, digital trade & data flow, State owned enterprises (SOE), currency manipulation, transparency and Intellectual property right (IPR) protection issues in TPP, strengthening trade enforcement, renewing African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and making further progress of Trade in Service Agreement (TiSA) and Information Technology Agreement (ITA) at WTO.

The followings are some personal comments on the overall atmosphere in the Senate hearing:

  • It doesn’t seem possible to be able to conclude TPP without TPA, for at least two reasons: 1) Congress doesn’t want to give up its authority on trade policy. If TPP negotiation were concluded before the passage of TPA, Congress would feel it had little influence on shaping TPP through the mechanism of TPA trade negotiating objectives. This will add to the difficulty of potentially passing the TPP implementing bill under expedited legislative procedures. 2) Other TPP members, such as Japan, are unlikely to put the final offer on the negotiation table, especially for politically sensitive issues, without having the assurance provided by TPA.
  • There is a growing call for “strong” labor and environmental provisions in TPP. This is not surprising given the fact that the general public is attaching greater importance to labor and environmental impact of international trade. NGOs, such as labor and environmental groups have become more critical players in trade politics nowadays as well. Practically, strong labor and environmental provisions are regarded as important means to create “a level playing field” for US products competing in the world marketplace. These provisions can also be used as leverages to push for better human right practices in some foreign countries. That being said, as noted by many trade experts, trade policy shall not be expected to solve environmental and labor problems.
  • Currency manipulation becomes a hot discussion topic again, but USTR doesn’t seem to be interested in including the currency provision in TPP. Many senators raised the currency issue during the hearing, however, it shall be noted that: 1) Free trade agreement (FTA) and even WTO is not an appropriate venue to deal with currency issues; 2) the business community actually does not see currency as a priority issue to address. They care more about things like market access, IPR protection, national treatment and dealing with SOEs. 3) Currency manipulation provision is not an effective way to solve currency concerns. For example, it would be impossible to determine what shall be the “right” exchange rate–ten economists may give twelve different answers. 4) It will be interesting to see what language the potential TPA bill will use to define currency issue as a  trade negotiating objective.
  • Benefit of trade is still largely misunderstood. During the hearing, almost all support for TPA & TPP came from the export side: “export is good for the US economy”, “export can create higher-paid middle class jobs”, “US runs trade surplus with all FTA partners and all trade deficits came from those non-FTA partners”…However, nobody in the hearing talked about the benefits of imports and the global nature of supply chain in the 21st Mercantilism is still a popular view in Congress.

Sheng Lu

Exclusive Interview with William L. “Bill” Jasper, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Unifi Inc.

Bill Jasper

William L. “Bill” Jasper has been Unifi’s Chairman of the Board since February 2011 and has served as Unifi’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and member of Unifi’s Board of Directors and the Company’s Executive Committee since September 2007. Prior to his role as Chairman of the Board, he served as President and CEO, Vice President of Sales and General Manager of Unifi’s polyester division. He joined the company with the purchase of Kinston polyester POY assets from INVISTA in September 2004. Prior to joining Unifi, Mr. Jasper was the Director of INVISTA’s DACRON® polyester filament business. Before working at INVISTA, he held various management positions in operations, technology, sales and business for DuPont since 1980.

Bill Jasper is also a University of Rhode Island alumni! He graduated in 1977 with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

Founded in 1971 and Headquartered in Greensboro, NC, Unifi, Inc. is a leading producer and processor of multi-filament polyester and nylon textured yarns. Unifi provides innovative, global textile solutions and unique branded yarns for customers at every level of the supply chain. Unifi’s core business consists of the manufacturing of POY (partially-oriented yarn), the texturing, air-jet texturing, twisting, and beaming of polyester and the texturing and covering of nylon filament yarns. Branded products of Unifi include aio® — all-in-one performance yarns, SORBTEK® A.M.Y.®, MYNX® UV, REPREVE®, REFLEXX®, INHIBIT® and SATURA®, which can be found in many products manufactured by the world’s leading brands and retailers.

Interview Part

Sheng Lu: How would you describe the current status of the U.S. textile industry? What’s your outlook for the industry in the next 5 years? What are the top challenges the U.S. textile industry is facing?

Bill Jasper: The industry has undergone a revival after years of decline, so the current status is strong and I believe we’ll see that environment continue for several more years in this region. The industry is expanding in practically every key economic indicator, including output, employment, exports and investment.

  • U.S. textile shipments topped $56 billion in 2013, up more than 5% from 2012
  • U.S. textile exports were $17.9 billion in 2013, up nearly 5%
    • The U.S. has also enjoyed an investment surge in new plants and equipment. Over the past year, 8 foreign companies have made public announcements regarding their intention to invest more than $700 million in new U.S. textile facilities and equipment. These investments are projected to provide approximately 1,900 new jobs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana.
    • This $700 million does not include the ongoing re-investment activities that domestic textile companies have made.

The U.S. industry is also benefitting from several domestic advantages, including reliable and relatively inexpensive energy supplies, infrastructure, access to raw materials, and proximity to markets. We are gaining competitive advantages due to conditions outside the U.S., including rising costs in Asia, high shipping costs, and port capacity restraints. In addition, you’ve probably seen Wal-Mart’s advertising and P.R. blitz that it is committing to buy hundreds of billions of additional dollars in American-made products over the next decade to help support and spur U.S. manufacturing and innovation. With Wal-Mart leading the way, there is definitely a movement afoot to “reshore” some U.S. manufacturing, including textiles and apparel.

Finally, I believe a major driver of recent investments and one of the biggest contributors to the renaissance described above is also one of the biggest challenges the industry is facing. Virtually all of our free trade agreements to date have been based on a yarn forward rule of origin. This means that all processes, including the yarn extrusion, spinning, texturing, fabric formation, and the dyeing, finishing and assembly of the finished garment must take place in a free trade agreement member country to receive duty-free benefits. This rule has benefited the U.S. industry especially in NAFTA and DR-CAFTA, as U.S. yarn and fabric producers have dramatically increased our exports to the region under this regime.

As the U.S. negotiates the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), if this same rule of origin is undermined by single transformation rules or other loopholes, it could erode the entire supply chain in this hemisphere. In addition, careful attention must be paid to market access for potential TPP members like Vietnam, who is already the second largest exporter of textiles and apparel to the U.S. The domestic industry has requested reasonable duty phase-out periods in market access for our most sensitive products under the TPP so that our partnerships in this region have an adequate adjustment period. The TPP is considered to be the model for all future trade agreements with the U.S., thus it is critically important that our negotiators consider the profound consequences it can have on U.S. jobs and the U.S. textile industry.

Sheng Lu:  “Made in USA” is a very hot topic these days, yet we also live in a globalized world today. From the textile business perspective, what is the relationship between “Made in USA” and “going global” in the 21st century? Do US textile companies today still have to make a choice between the two?

Bill Jasper: Most apparel brands and retailers utilize a balanced sourcing strategy that incorporates production in this hemisphere, as well as Asia, Africa, or other global manufacturing and/or assembly. I do not feel that U.S. textile producers today must necessarily make a choice between the two, but must have a business plan that addresses the realities of the global market. In fact, nearly 98 percent of the clothing purchased in the U.S. is imported from abroad. Only two percent of clothing bought in this country is manufactured here in the U.S., and I doubt there is a business plan in any U.S. textile company that doesn’t reflect that reality.

Unifi, for example, works with downstream customers who want research and development, innovation, speed to market, sustainability, etc., from yarn and fabric production in this hemisphere. It is important that we provide flexibility and these same innovative products anywhere in the world our customers choose to do business. Thus, we export yarn to more than 30 countries from our domestic plants (not counting the exports of fabric from domestic weavers and knitters that use our inputs). Unifi also operates a wholly-owned subsidiary in Suzhou, China, where we focus on the development, sales and service of Unifi’s premium value-added yarns for the Asian market. Our expanding network of manufacturing facilities, sales and sourcing initiatives enables us to drive and capture growth in every major textile and apparel region in the world.

Sheng Lu: We know many products of Unifi are textile intermediaries like fibers and yarns. So how is Unifi’s brand promoted? How much can consumers recognize your product as “made in USA”?

Bill Jasper: As an upstream producer, making that connection with the ultimate consumer can be a challenge. Unifi has succeeded on several fronts. We have differentiated our product offering with premium value-added products, like REPREVE®, which we supply to our global customers wherever they are producing. Our downstream sales and marketing teams work extensively with brands and retailers to help them promote the unique properties of Unifi fibers and yarns. Some ways we do this includes, on product-labeling, hangtags, point of sale, cobranding, advertising and various consumer promotions. The “Made in the USA” message is and can be part of this effort, and I think we’ll see more demand for that as the brands and retailers move more of their sourcing from Asia back to this hemisphere over the next few years.

We recently began marketing directly to the consumer through the launch of our REPREVE #TurnItGreen campaign, which focuses on raising awareness around the importance of recycling and the products that can be created from plastic bottles when they are recycled. The initial launch took place at ESPN’s X Games Aspen in January 2014, where we literally and figuratively helped turn the event green using REPREVE-based product and color. At X Games Aspen, we recycled more than 100,000 plastic bottles to make X Games signage, lanyards and other merchandise. As we grow the REPREVE brand at retail and in the consumer space, we will continue these efforts with various partners, including current partners who have joined the REPREVE #TurnItGreen initiative, including NFL team, the Detriot Lions, where we will recycle more than 200,000 plastic bottles to help turn their stadium green on December 7th, 2014. We’re also driving recycling education by helping turn the live action event, Marvel Universe Live!, green through apparel for the cast and crew, merchandise items and banners, all made with REPREVE recycled fiber.

Sheng Lu: Unifi has opened factories in Brazil and Colombia. Why did Unifi decide to invest in South America? What is the connection between Unifi’s US-based operation and your operations in South America?

Bill Jasper: Both of these manufacturing plants were established in the mid to late 90s as wholly owned subsidiaries of Unifi, Inc. We purchased the small Colombia plant to give us more spandex covering capacity for our yarns that come back to the U.S. for use in pantyhose and socks. The Brazil operation was set up when we saw an opportunity to capture a share of the growing synthetic apparel market in that country. The majority of the textured polyester we make in Brazil stays in Brazil. Over the past several years we have introduced our premium value-added yarns in that market and hope to see strong growth in those product lines as the economy picks up down there.

Unifi also opened a 120,000 square foot polyester yarn texturing facility in El Salvador in 2010 to take advantage of the duty benefits in the DR-CAFTA trade pact and to better serve our growing customer base in the region.

Sheng Lu: What is the market potential of Asia and particularly China for Unifi and the US textile industry in general?

Bill Jasper: The expected growth in China and other Asian markets is enormous, and Unifi’s strategic plan reflects that. By 2020, China’s consumer market is expected to reach 22 percent of total global consumption, second only to the U.S. at 35 percent. Our wholly owned subsidiary (UTSC) is located at the center of one of China’s most important textile regions, Suzhou. UTSC customers will have quick access to new product introductions with the quality and technical service they have come to expect with Unifi. UTSC was established to provide the domestic Chinese market with a full complement of our specialty branded products, not only for their growing appetite for branded apparel, but for growth in their automotive and home furnishing markets.

The U.S. textile industry in general has invested heavily to take advantage of the growth in Asia by adding to their manufacturing facilities here or putting plants in Asia or China. Countries like Vietnam also offer strong manufacturing platforms due to lower wages than China and the prospect of duty-free exports to the European Union, the U.S. and Japan when announced trade agreements like TPP are completed. The growth of the Asian textile market certainly ups the ante in regard to whether there will be a yarn forward rule under TPP. Failure to include a strong yarn forward rule in this key agreement will likely cede key Asian markets to textile suppliers that are not a party to the TPP. To the contrary, inclusion of a yarn forward provision in that agreement will drive investment to partner countries and provides opportunities for U.S. fabrics and yarns to supply production meeting those guidelines.

Sheng Lu: How do you see “sustainability” as a game changer for the textile industry?  What has Unifi done in response to the growing awareness of sustainability among consumers?

Bill Jasper: Reducing our environmental footprint through the entire supply chain has been an important focus of the industry for several years, driven by industry leaders like Unifi and our suppliers and customers.

Unifi has an on-site environmental team constantly reviewing everything we do to see how we can reduce, reuse, recycle and conserve. All of our U.S.-based plants are currently landfill-free; we recycle our shipping pallets, we have installed energy-efficient lighting and increased efficiency around our compressed air usage, for example.

In 2010, Unifi opened our state-of-the-art REPREVE Recycling Center, where we use our own industrial yarn waste, recycled water bottles and even fabric waste to make REPREVE® recycled polyester fibers and yarns which go back into high end consumer apparel, like fleeces made by Patagonia, shoes and apparel by Nike, The North Face jackets, and eco-friendly Haggar pants. You can also find REPREVE® in Ford vehicles, including the 2015 Ford F150. In 2013, REPREVE® turned more than 740 million recycled bottles into fiber, and since 2009, we have recycled more than two billion plastic bottles to make REPREVE. Unifi’s recycled process offsets the need to use newly refined crude oil, uses less energy and water, and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to making virgin synthetic fibers.

Moreover, for Unifi at least, this is much more than a marketing concept. Our focus on environmental sustainability is now an engrained part of our culture. We believe that sustainability must be an unwavering core value of responsible manufacturing in the 21st century.

Sheng Lu: Given the changing nature of the US textile industry, what kind of talents will be most in needs by the US textile industry in the years ahead? Do you have any advice for textile and apparel majors in terms of improving their employability in the job market?

Bill Jasper: The U.S. textile industry is a diverse, technology driven, capital intensive, innovator of high quality products that is able and ready to compete effectively in the 21st century global marketplace, and a prepared workforce is critical in meeting the needs of this competitive industry. Not only do we look for skills in textile technology, we look for workers with high math and science aptitudes, technical and chemical engineering skills, process improvement, and industrial engineering capabilities. The ability to think strategically and globally is a big advantage in driving sales and creating marketing programs that meet the needs of our customers world-wide.

–The End–

EU Commission Releases Negotiating Positions for Textile and Apparel in T-TIP

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The EU Commission released its negotiating positions for the textile and apparel sector in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) on May 14, 2014.  The position paper outlines a few areas that the EU Commission says it would include in the T-TIP negotiation with the United States:

  • Labeling requirements for textile & apparel and footwear products
  • convergence and/or harmonization of approaches to guarantee product safety and consumer protection
  • standards approximation

Earlier this year, USTR also released its negotiating objectives for the T-TIP. Specifically for the textile and apparel sector, USTR will “seek to obtain fully reciprocal access to the EU market for U.S. textile and apparel products, supported by effective and efficient customs cooperation and other rules to facilitate U.S.-EU trade in textiles and apparel.” USTR holds the positive view that “eliminating the remaining duties on our exports will create new opportunities for integration into European supply chains and to sell high-quality “made-in-USA” garments to European consumers.  Enhanced U.S.-EU customs cooperation will also help ensure that non-qualifying textiles and apparel from third countries are not being imported into the United States under T-TIP.

However, T-TIP negotiation somehow is under the shadow of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another free trade agreement currently under negotiation among the United States and other eleven countries in the Asia Pacific region. As reported by the Inside US Trade, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) holds the view that TTP and T-TIP negotiation should be dealt with “sequentially”. NCTO would like to avoid a situation where the US makes a concession on textiles and apparel to the EU in T-TIP that goes beyond the US offer to Vietnam in TPP, causing Vietnam to demand the same concession in the TPP talks.

One of the most difficult issues on textiles and apparel in T-TIP will be the rule of origin, given that the U.S. and EU have taken vastly different approaches on this issue in their existing preferential trade agreements. The EU rule of origin for apparel essentially consists of two different rules — one that applies generally and one that can be used as an exception. Under the general rule, an apparel item qualifies as originating if it has undergone at least two “substantial processes” in the EU. In general, weaving the yarn into fabric and finishing the fabric are considered substantial operations. Under this scheme, EU manufacturers can use non-originating yarn to make qualifying apparel as long as that yarn is woven into fabric in the EU and also finished there. As a result, this part of the EU rule is sometimes referred to in the United States as the equivalent of a “fabric-forward” rule, since it usually requires all components of the item, starting with the fabric, to be made in the region.

The second part of the EU rule — which functions as an exception — essentially applies a more liberal rule for certain apparel and textile items. These items can qualify for tariff benefits even if only the printing or other downstream operations occur in the EU. Specifically, under this exception, a textile or apparel item that is made from non-originating fabric but for which the printing occurs in the EU can qualify for tariff benefits if the non-originating part of the item is no more than 47.5 percent of the value of the final product. EU manufacturers of printed bed sheets often take advantage of this printing exception (Inside US Trade).

Latest data from OTEXA shows that in 2013, U.S. textile and apparel imports from EU(28) totaled $4 billion, among which 52% were apparel products and 48% were textiles. Top product categories of U.S. textile and apparel imports from EU include non-woven fabrics, men&boys’ suits, dresses, floor coverings, other man-made fiber apparel, special purpose fabrics and women & girls’ coats. In comparison, U.S. textile and apparel exports to EU(28) reached $2.5 billion in 2013, among which only 29% were apparel products and 71% were textiles. Top product categories of U.S. textile and apparel exports to EU include specialty & industrial fabrics, felts & other non-woven fabrics, filament yarns, other made-up textile articles, waste & tow staples, women & girls slacks, shorts and pants as well as spun yarns & thread.

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The Ways and Means Hearing Shows Divided Views on US Trade Policy for Textiles and Apparel

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US Trade Representative Michael Froman testified on Obama’s 2014 trade policy agenda before the House Ways and Means Committee on April 3. Issues concerning the textile, apparel and the footwear industry were raised three times during the 3-hour hearing. However, it seems the Congress is much divided on how to deal with the T&A sector deemed as “sensitive” in the FTA talks.

(1h:42’)Mike Thompson (D-CA) asked Froman to reevaluate the value of including the “yarn-forward” rules of origin (RoO) in the TPP. Thompson suggested that this rule only affects a small proportion of the US apparel imports nowadays (Note: according to Froman, it was $13 billion annually or 17% of the total US apparel imports) and no longer meets the needs of the US outdoor apparel industry which demands more flexible RoO in supporting of their business model. In response, Forman said that “the USTR’s approach to T&A is always being to ensure to strike a balance that helps the domestic producers continue to produce while allowing importers to import products that serve customers…”

(2h:06’) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) asked Froman to reduce the trade barriers (tariff and NTB) on footwear imports, arguing that less than 1% of the footwear consumed in the US nowadays is domestically produced. He said that the high tariff rates both retard the ability of the US footwear industry to concentrate on those parts of the value chain that it enjoys competitive advantages and hurt the interests of the US consumers. In response, Forman said that footwear has been a sensitive and key issue to the US and among other TPP members. According to Forman, USTR has been working both with the domestic producers and the importers to develop an approach hoping to achieve the right balance that the domestic producers can continue to compete and also the importers can bring in high quality products (from overseas) for the US consumers. Additionally, Forman referred to the footwear industry an “outstanding area” in the TPP negotiation and said that discussion among all partners will continue.

Last but not least, (2h:30’) Bill Pascrell(D-NJ), also the chair of the house textile caucus, reiterated the importance of the yarn-forward RoO to the US textile industry and asked Froman to ensure that the USTR will “seek the longest possible duty phrase out for the most sensitive textile items” in the TPP negotiation. In his reply to Pascrell, Forman said that his team will work with all stakeholders of the US T&A industry to fully understand what these “sensitive textile items” are and will use tools like the “phrase out period” and “short supply list” to strike a right balance. Pascrell also expressed the concerns of the US textile industry about Vietnam’s wanting of immediate access to the US apparel market after the implementation of the TPP. However, Forman declined to give any concrete promise, just saying the USTR commits to create the “maximum number of jobs in the US” through the trade talks[Note: textile industry jobs? Apparel retail jobs?].

In addition to the T&A, other issues mentioned in the hearing include TPA, GSP, TAA, IPR, SPS & TBT, TTIP, SOE, TiSA, ITA and WTO.

Full hearing can be viewed here

Sheng Lu

CAFTA-DR Fixes

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In 2011, the US Trade Representative Office announced a number of changes to the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), or called “CAFTA-DR fixes”. The changes intend to expand export opportunities for the U.S. textile industry under the CAFTA-DR and encourage a vibrant textile and apparel supply chain in the Western Hemisphere. Among the changes of particular significance is the change clarifying that certain monofilament sewing thread is now required to originate or be produced in the United States or the CAFTA-DR region in order for goods to qualify for preferential tariff treatment.  [You may think about within the territory of the CAFTA, which country actually has the capacity of making “thread”?] Before the fixes, some CAFTA-DR countries used cheaper threads from Asia which raised grave concerns by the textile manufacturers.

More technical details about the CAFTA-DR fixes can be found here.

PS–The Difference between Yarn and Thread:

yarn and thread

  • A thread is a type of yarn
  • A thread is used for sewing while a yarn can be used for many purposes such as knitting, weaving, embroidering, and crocheting, and so on
  • A thread is lighter in weight than a yarn in general
  • While a thread is used to sew pieces of fabrics together, yarn is used to weave an altogether new fabric

TPP updates: Hong Kong and South Korean textile firms increase FDI in Vietnam

The American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam recently updates the textile & apparel sectoral negotiation under the TPP. At this point, different stake holders in the negotiation still hold divided views on a number of key issues, such as the rules of origin and short supply list. It is not a country line, but a line between different business types. What is also interesting to watch is that textile firms from Hong Kong and South Korea have taken actions to seize the “strategic opportunity” of investing in Vietnam. In the long run, it is not positive news for the U.S. textile mills to see Vietnam become more self-dependent on textile supply. However, few people believe TPP would conclude by the end of this year…

Full text of the article:

In Vietnam in preparation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership duty-free exports of apparel from Vietnam to the USA in accordance with the Textiles and Apparel Chapter rules of origin.

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) asked USTR Michael Froman at the Jun 6, 2013 Senate Finance Committee hearing on the nomination, ” … a poorly negotiated TPP agreement could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs in the textile sector … If confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative, will you support the yarn-forward rule of origin?”

Ambassador Froman replied, “The short answer is yes. We have made clear that we need clear rules of origin with yarn-forward at the center, we need rules against trans-shipments … the yarn-forward fule is a central part of our approach to textiles.” Click this link to see a C-SPAN video of the Senate Finance Committee hearing (0:27:41).

The “yarn forward” rule of origin means that all products in a garment from the yarn stage forward must be made in one of the countries that is party to the TPP agreement. In simple terms, the “yarn forward” rule means that the benefits of the agreement accrue to producers in TPP member countries rather than producers in non-TPP countries.

Perhaps in response, Mr. Nguyen Vu Tung, Deputy Chief of Mission at Vietnam’s Embassy to the USA in Washington, said at a conference on Jun 19, 2013, that the latest U.S. offer “is really, really difficult for us to accept.” Unless the two sides can reach a breakthrough, “I’m really concerned about the prospect of Vietnam to conclude the successful negotiation of TPP,” he said. According to the report, ”U.S. textile producers sell billions of dollars of yarn and fabric each year to U.S. free trade partners in Latin America, where it is turned into clothing and sent back to the United States. They fear without the yarn forward rule, Vietnam will be able to shut down that trade by importing yarn and fabric from China to make clothing to ship duty-free to the United States.”

Deputy Chief of Mission Nguyen Vu Tung made the comment at a conference organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington on The Trans-Pacific Partnership: New Rules for a New Era, Jun 19, 2013 (3 hours), with opening remarks by Robert Zoellick, former U.S. Trade Representative, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and former World Bank President. Click the link to see a video of the webinar.

While political leaders and diplomats discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership rules of origin, Hong Kong, South Korean, and Australian firms are developing and planning major textiles FDI in Vietnam to produce yarn and fabric, the supporting textiles industry for apparel production.

Korea’s Kyungbang inaugurates new $40 million yarn facility in Binh Duong; plan to develop the largest yarn-spinning in Asia. When the plant is extended in its second and third phase (with registered investment of $160 million), it will be the largest mill in Asia.

Hong Kong’s Texhong to invest $300 million, Pacific Textiles $180 million in new textile facilities in Vietnam, in preparation for TPP

Texhong has has already invested $200 million in a plant in Dong Nai Province, and committed in Jul 2012 $300 million to a factory in Quang Ninh, which should be operational in the 2nd half of 2013.

Last year [2012] Texhong said it would invest $300 million to build a new yarn factory in Quang Ninh.. When the second-phase investment is completed next year [2014] its annual capacity will more than double to 110,000 tonnes of yarn.

Australia’s Woolmark® helps develop yarn-forward wool products in Vietnam. Today there are close to 50 companies in Vietnam using Australian wool. “When we started the project, none of the manufacturing partners knew anything about wool, and some of them had never even felt it,” said AWI project manager Jimmy Jackson. Initially we ran training courses to explain wool’s properties, benefits and features for manufacturing and producing garments. The next step was to introduce the manufacturers to suppliers of Australian wool yarns. We also had to explain the Woolmark standards and requirement in terms of both wear and laundering performance. Now that the Vietnamese manufacturers are confident in producing quality wool garments, AWI will introduce them to global retail and brand buyers.

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.

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.

 

US: Yarn-forward rule row flares up again

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A row has flared up again over the yarn-forward rule of origin in US free trade agreements after The Hosiery Association (THA) called for a knit-to-shape, assembly-only exception for socks and hosiery in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Three textile trade associations have now written to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk expressing their “strong opposition” to the proposal.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), National Council of Textile (NCTO) Organizations, and American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA) say any such move “conflicts with the US textile industry’s longstanding support” of a yarn-forward rule of origin for textiles and apparel.

The yarn-forward rule requires all stages of production – from yarn spinning to fabric formation and final garment assembly – to be done either in the United States or in an FTA partner country to qualify for duty-free treatment.

US textile groups say the rule is “long-established” and “logical” because the value of a finished item comes from its components, rather than from its final assembly.

But American retailers, apparel brands, manufacturers and importers argue it is too restrictive, hinders new trade and investment in the sector, and renders most existing trade ineligible for preferential tariff treatment.

The Hosiery Association wants the TPP pact – currently being negotiated by the US, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Peru – to allow hosiery producers to source yarns for man-made fibre socks and hosiery outside the TPP region in all instances except in the case of 100% cotton and polyester products.

But “this proposal would be a massive blow to US and other TPP producers who manufacture acrylic, nylon and various other types of man-made fibre yarns,” the textile groups say.

“In short, the THA proposal allows yarns currently made in large quantities in the United States to be sourced from third parties, notably China,” the letter says.