USTR Lighthizer Discusses Philosophies behind Trump Administration’s Trade Policy

At an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on September 18, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer addressed the U.S. trade policy in the Trump Administration, particularly Trump’s beliefs on trade:

Philosophy 1: The reason why some Americans oppose free trade is NOT that they were “ill-informed.” Rather, it is because the U.S. trade policy for decades has failed to create a “level playing field.” The Trump Administration will proactively use all instruments to “make it expensive” for U.S. trading partners to engage in the non-economic behavior, convince U.S. trading partners to treat U.S. workers, farmers, and ranchers fairly and demand “reciprocity” both in the home and international markets.

Philosophy2: Trade deficits matter. Although trade policy is not the only cause for the trade deficit, it can be a major contributor, such as high tariffs that deny the market access for U.S. products, not imposing the border adjustment tax and currency manipulation.

Philosophy 3: China is the top challenge. According to Lighthizer, “the sheer scale of China’s coordinated efforts to develop their economy, to subsidize, to create national champions, to force technology transfer, and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented.”

Philosophy 4: The Trump Administrations will exam all existing trade agreements to make sure they provide “roughly equivalent” measured by trade deficits. “Where there the numbers and other factors indicate a disequilibrium, one should renegotiate.”

During the Q&A session, Lighthizer further shared his views on some cutting-edge trade issues:

  1. Regarding the NAFTA renegotiation, Lightlizher said that the negotiation is “moving at warp speed, but we don’t know whether we’re going to get to a conclusion, that’s the problem.” The consultation process with U.S. Congress is complicated and time-consuming, but it is unavoidable.
  2. The Trump Administration prefers bilateral trade deal over regional and multilateral ones. Given the size of the U.S. economy, Lighthizer believes that bilateral trade agreement will provide more negotiation leverages and ensure better enforcement.
  3. The Trump Administration will still stay very much engaged in Asia.
  4. The WTO Dispute-Settlement mechanism doesn’t work well—it has both imposed new obligations for the U.S. and reduced a lot of U.S. benefits.
  5. Regarding the outlook for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiation, Lighthizer stressed the importance of the US-EU trade relations. He said that the series of elections in EU is a reason why the negotiation of the agreement hasn’t moved forward.
  6. Regarding TISA (Trade in services agreement), the U.S. objective is to open markets and eliminate market access barriers for U.S. companies.

EU Textile and Apparel Industry Sees Commercial Opportunities in Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)

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(picture source: Euratex)

According to the European Apparel and Textile Federation (Euratex), Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), if reached and implemented, will bring substantial commercial benefits to the EU textile and apparel (T&A) industry. Euratex sees T-TIP has the great potential to help EU T&A expand exports to the U.S. market, particularly in two areas:

One is high-end apparel. The United States is EU’s third largest apparel export market only after Switzerland and Russia. In 2014, apparel exports from EU(28) to the United States exceed €2.5 billion and most products were much higher priced than those exported from elsewhere in the world. Euratex expects that when the high tariff facing EU apparel products in the U.S. market is removed—such as 28% tariff rate for women’s jacket, and customs red tape is cut, many small and medium (SME) sized EU T&A companies will be able to gain more access to the 300 million people U.S. apparel market.

The other is technical textiles: Euratex highlighted that “technical textiles, like high functionality fabrics used for firefighters’ uniforms or airbags, represent half of our textiles exports to the US. European home textiles are of great success in the US: more than €92million of bedlinen were sold in 2014. Nonwoven textile products for hygiene and medical purposes (cleansing tissues, surgical bedsheets, gauze, bandages, etc.) are a growing part of our exports to the U.S.. High-tech textiles products cover a wide range of applications – transport, construction, agriculture, defense, personal protection and much more.”

Moreover, it seems that the EU technical textile industry is very interested in getting access to the U.S. market currently protected by the Berry Amendment. Euratex sees “Opening business opportunities in public sector for technical textiles is a must in T-TIP. “Europe is a recognized leader in production of smart technical textiles due to advanced manufacturing technologies and constant innovation of materials and their application. The production of technical textiles in Europe significantly increased over the past ten years. With TTIP, the US public services will be able to benefit from the innovative products manufactured in Europe.” Euratex says.

Background: the state of EU-US textile and apparel trade

EU-US T&A trade

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.

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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).

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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

Potential Impact of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) on Related Textile and Apparel Trade Flows

The presentation was delivered at the 2015 International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico on November 13, 2015. Welcome for any suggestions and feedback.

Euratex Released Position Paper on Textile and Apparel Rules of Origin in T-TIP

The European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex) recently released its position paper on textile and apparel (T&A) rules of origin in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). According to the paper:

First, Euratex supports “double transformation rules” as the basis of T&A rules of origin in T-TIP, with the accompany of flexibilities in some cases. In general, “double transformation” is equivalent to “fabric-forward” rules of origin, which is less restrictive than the “yarn-forward” rules of origin adopted in the United States. Euratex believes that “double transformation rules” is “aligned with market realities and developments of the European industry.”

In contrast, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) which represents the interests of the U.S. textile industry insists that T-TIP shall adopt the strict “yarn-forward” rule. Particularly, NCTO is worried that a less restrictive rules of origin in T-TIP will have ramifications for the negotiation of future FTAs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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Second, Euratex opposes applying the “value-added rule” to the T&A sector in T-TIP. Based on the value-added approach, country of origin can be granted when “manufacture in which the value of all the materials used does not exceed certain % of the ex-works price of the products.” Value added is typically calculated based on a subtraction formula, i.e. value added=ex-works price of the product obtained minus the value of all the non-originating material.

Euratex does not think the “value added rule” will work for T&A, because: 1) “variability of the value of originating/non-originating products (fibers, yarns or fabrics) used in spinning or weaving or making-up” will make it practically difficult to calculate value added. 2) “the value added principle is uncontrollable as the added value can be influenced by many factors such as raw materials price, financing, exchange rate manipulations etc.”

Appendix:

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US Fashion and Apparel Industry Releases Position Paper on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)

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The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the US Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) , the two leading industry organizations representing the US fashion and apparel industry, jointly released a position paper this week on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which is currently under negotiation between the United States and the European Union.

The position paper spells out a few priorities deemed by the US fashion apparel industry for the T-TIP:

  • Full, immediate and reciprocal elimination of tariffs, meaning import duties on all apparel products shall be eliminated on day one without phrase-out periods.
  • Flexible rules of origin, meaning restrictive rules of origin such as “yarn-forward” which requires companies to use textile inputs from certain regions so as to enjoy the duty free market access shall be abandoned and replaced by simpler and more flexible ones.
  • Regulatory coherence, such as harmonization on labeling regulations, harmonization of product safety and test method regulations, and establishing of a harmonized list of prohibited substances.
  • Emphasis on facilitative customs provisions, meaning improving predictability, simplicity and uniformity in border procedures.  

The European Branded Clothing Alliance is also a party of the joint statement; however, the European Textile and Apparel Confederation (Euratex) is not involved.

On the other hand, in May 2014, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), which represents the interests of the US textile industry, announced its priorities for the T-TIP negation, including:

  • Adopt the “yarn-forward” rules of origin in T-TIP
  • Set phrase-out periods for sensitive textile and apparel products
  • Protect the Berry Amendment (which requires all US military uniforms have to be 100% made in USA)

2014 USFIA Benchmarking Study Released

UntitledKey Findings

  • China will remain the dominant supplier, though Vietnam and Asia as a whole are seen as having more growth potential.
  • Companies aren’t leaving Bangladesh, and are committed to compliance.
  • Companies continue to look for opportunities closer to home, including the United States, as they diversify their sourcing.
  • Companies are diversifying their sourcing and expect to continue to do so. However, current FTAs and preference programs remain under-utilized or don’t represent a major component of respondents’ sourcing.
  • Respondents welcome the passage or renewal of all future trade agreements that intend to remove trade barriers and facilitate international trade in the industry.

About the Benchmarking Study
The 2014 USFIA benchmarking study is conducted based on a survey of 29 executives at 29 leading U.S. fashion companies from March to April 2014. The study incorporates a balanced mix of respondents representing various business types in the U.S. fashion industry, including retailers, importers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. The survey asked respondents about the business outlook, sourcing practices, utilization of Free Trade Agreements and preference programs, and views on trade policy.

The full study can be downloaded from HERE.

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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Is Wal-Mart’s $250 billion “Made in the USA” Program Another “Crafted with Pride Campaign”? (I)

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Earlier this year, Wal-Mart Store Inc. announced its commitment to buy $250 billion “Made in the USA” products (including textiles and apparel) over the next 10 years ($50 billion annually) with the hope to “help spark a revitalization of U.S.-based manufacturing” and “create jobs in America”. According to the Hoover’s, Wal-Mart’s cost of goods (i.e. sourcing cost for merchandise sold) totaled $358 billion in fiscal year 2013, suggesting $50 billion will account for around 10-14% of its total sourcing portfolio.               

Wal-Mart’s campaign has received positive feedback from the US textile and apparel industry. As reported by the WWD, the U.S. textile industry sees Wal-Mart’s movement an encouraging and “sincere commitment”. Bill Jasper, the outgoing chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and CEO of Unifi Inc believed that “manufacturing in general across the United States is in a more favorable position than we’ve seen for some time” and “this is an environment for growth in U.S. textile manufacturing”. As an example, Unifi Inc has spent millions of dollars upgrading its equipment and expanding the company’s US-based cloth mill. However, Bill also realizes the market risks involved in the investment decision, which may not happen without Wal-Mart’s “assurance” through the $250 billion program.

However, to fully take advantage of Wal-Mart’s program is not without obstacle. On top of them, Walmart requires qualified apparel for the program has to be “100 percent made in the United States”. However, the reality is there is more apparel being made in the Western Hemisphere by countries such as Mexico and those in the Caribbean Basin Regions than there is in the United States. As put by Bill, “We’re seeing more of a resurgence of ‘made in the region’ as opposed to Made in USA…If you at look the growth we see in apparel, much of that is in Central America and to a lesser extent Mexico. It does drive growth in yarn and fabrics here in the U.S., which are feed for those garments.”

It is also interesting to compare Wal-Mart’s $250 billion “Made in USA” program with its role in the “Crafted with Pride Campaign” launched in the 1980s (our case study 3). During that campaign, Wal-Mart initially pledged that “our entire management and merchandising staff is committed to Buy American program” and it did cut imports by 20% and purchased $197.3 million of merchandise from domestic suppliers in 1985 (Minchin, 2012). However, for the commercial reasons,  later on Wal-Mart more and more relied on imports to support its global expansion and “everyday low price” business model. The “betrayal” of Wal-Mart largely contributed to the eventual failure of the campaign.

What will be the destiny of the 21st century version of the “Crafted with Pride Campaign”? Is Wal-Mart really committed to “Made in USA” or rather the more price competitive “Made in USA” today attracts the attention of Wal-Mart? If implementation of new free trade agreements such as TPP and TTIP switches the cost balance of domestic sourcing versus global sourcing again, will War-Mart repeat its record in history? Maybe only time will tell…

Sheng Lu

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

Exclusive Interview with Nate Herman, Vice President of the American Apparel and Footwear Association

NateHerman (Photo: Courtesy of the AAFA)

Nate Herman is the Vice President of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA). Mr. Herman manages AAFA’s regulatory and legislative affairs activities, advocating on behalf of, and providing information to, the industry on international trade and corporate social responsibility issues. Mr. Herman also handles product safety, customs, transportation and other technical (slip resistance, safety toe, etc.) issues as well as labeling matters for AAFA’s footwear members as co-leader of AAFA’s Footwear Team.  In addition, Mr. Herman develops all apparel and footwear industry data and statistics as AAFA’s resident economist.  Prior to joining AAFA, Mr. Herman worked for six years at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) assisting U.S. firms in entering the global market. Mr. Herman spent the last two years as the Department’s industry analyst for the footwear and travel goods industries.

Interview Part

Sheng Lu: First of all, would you please make a brief introduction of AAFA to our students, including your history, your current members, your key missions and main functions?

Nate Herman: Representing more than 1,000 world famous name brands, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) is the trusted public policy and political voice of the apparel and footwear industry, its management and shareholders, its four million U.S. workers, and its contribution of $350 billion in annual U.S. retail sales.  AAFA was formed in 2001 following a merger of the American Apparel Manufacturers Association and Footwear Industries of America.

AAFA stands at the forefront as a leader of positive change for the apparel and footwear industry.  With integrity and purpose, AAFA delivers a unified voice on key legislative and regulatory issues.  AAFA enables a collaborative forum to promote best practices and innovation.  AAFA’s comprehensive work ensures the continued success and growth of the apparel and footwear industry, its suppliers, and its customers.

We achieve these goals through aggressive advocacy on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on the issues most important to the U.S. apparel and footwear industry. AAFA also hosts more than 50 conferences, seminars, workshops, and webinars both in the United States and around the world to ensure the industry is able to comply with growing state, federal, and international regulations.

Sheng Lu: AAFA recently released a video clip “What do we wear”, which is very encouraging and eye-opening to our students. What makes AAFA create this video and what specific information you would like to deliver to the audiences?

Nate Herman: A few years ago, we were asked a question during a meeting with a top-ranking senator.  “What is the economic impact of your industry?”  We didn’t have an answer, which didn’t help policy makers see the important jobs within our industry and our significant contribution to the U.S. economy.  That led to the launch of our “We Wear” brand.

You see, when we get dressed each day, we wear more than clothes and shoes.  We wear four million U.S. jobs.  We wear intellectual property.  We wear social responsibility.  Our new video is a visual reminder of our important mission and economic impact.  We use it to educate policy makers, administration officials, the industry, and consumers about our industry and how vital we are to the overall health of the U.S. economy.

Sheng Lu: One phrase often used by AAFA is your member companies “produce globally and sell globally”. How should our students understand the global nature of today’s apparel industry?

Nate Herman: The apparel and footwear industry is on the frontlines of globalization.  In fact, our industry’s supply chain is the most global supply chain in the history of commerce.

Simply put: We are a nation of 330 million importers. In 2012, 97.5 percent of the apparel and 98 percent of the footwear sold in the United States was produced internationally. This model allows families to spend less of their family budgets on clothing and shoes while still getting more bang for their buck.

Sourcing is made possible through strong and positive trade relationships with a variety of countries, including China, Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and more.  Companies even source product from the United States.  Sourcing decisions are often made through serious processes that evaluate a country’s trade programs, environmental record, social responsibility standards, intellectual property protections, material and labor costs, shipping time, and reliability of sourcing partners.

At the same time, don’t ignore the rest of the world.  The United States only represents just five percent of the world’s population.  So when a company sources from China or Vietnam, they are sending products all over the world through a complex supply chain.  One of our goals at AAFA is to help ensure the entire world has access to world famous U.S. name brands.

Sheng Lu: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are two buzzwords nowadays. From the perspective of AAFA, why should the US apparel industry care about these two agreements? 

Nate Herman: Trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) offer U.S. name brands direct market access to new sourcing and retail markets.  For example, the United States and the European Union, under TTIP, accounts for more than 40 percent of global clothes and shoes retail sales.

Trade agreements also provide opportunities to harmonize regulations to make it easier to do business in the global market.  For instance, the United States maintains strict product safety standards.  Through trade agreements, we can make regulations consistent to ensure if a shirt is safe in one country it’s safe in another.  This prevents redundant testing costs, which ultimately makes clothes and shoes cheaper for consumers.

Sheng Lu: Last year, several tragedies happened in the Bangladesh garment factories raised the public awareness of the corporate social responsibility issues in the apparel sector. How has the tragedy changed the business practices in the apparel sector from your observation?

Nate Herman: Over the past year, the U.S. apparel and footwear industry has rallied together to address significant social responsibility challenges, including worker safety.  In fact, we’ve never seen the industry come together so fully in a spirit of collaboration.  Safety inspections, training, and fire safety prevention have been or are now part of many companies’ compliance programs.  AAFA supported the creation of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, an industry-led effort to prevent future tragedies in Bangladesh.  While all these positive steps encourage us, we know our social responsibility and environmental work will never be finished.  We can always do better.

Sheng Lu:  Look ahead in 2014, what top issues in the apparel industry you would suggest our students to watch?

Nate Herman: 2014 is already shaping up to be a busy year for the U.S. apparel and footwear industry.  One major trend we are watching is the continued growth of e-commerce and Omni-channel retail.  You see, the point of sale is just the starting point of a long – and global – supply chain.  We will see sourcing patterns and business models change as retail shifts away from brick-and-mortar shopping to online e-commerce.  We are now beginning to focus on new ideas like online privacy and data security, terms the industry didn’t have to focus on 10 years ago.

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The Apparel Industry on Both Sides of the Atlantic Push for Regulatory Coherence in the TTIP negotiation

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The European Apparel and Textile Confederation (EURATEX) and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), the two leading trade associations representing the apparel industry in the EU and US respectively, released their joint comment on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on December 13, pushing negotiators of the agreement to address the regulatory challenges that affect the apparel business across the Atlantic.  Specifically, the diverse labeling and product safety requirements between EU and US are identified as the two leading regulatory hurdles for the apparel business. Other issues of concern to the EURATEX and AAFA include conflict minerals reporting requirements, customs procedures and chemical management regimes.

TTIP, launched in June 2013, is one of the most important and economically influential free trade agreements currently under negotiation. If implemented, the agreement is expected to create additional $65 billion and $86 billion GDP to the US and the EU respectively.

It is argued that because the implementing tariff rate in the EU and US on average is already quite low, harmonizing regulatory differences rather than eliminating tariffs will be the key to the TTIP negotiation.* However, the very different and rigid legislative procedures in the EU and US may complicate the negotiation on regulatory coherence. Particularly, both the EU and US may want to convince the other side that their current regulations/standards are the better ones. And the political implication will be bad if trade negotiators of either side leave the impression domestically that the TTIP would lower down their current standards for sensitive topics such as “product safety” and “environmental protection” .  

Note*: as one of the few exceptions, the tariff rates for T&A are still relatively high: 6.6% for textiles and 11.5% for apparel in the EU as well as 7.9% for textiles and 11.6% for apparel in the US according to the World Trade Organization.

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by Sheng Lu

EU Textile and Apparel Industry Sees Positive Impact of the TTIP

The European Apparel and Textile Federation (EURATEX) on September 26, 2013 hosted a luncheon event on the current US-EU negotiation on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), particularly the impact of the agreement on the EU textile and apparel sector. According to Mr. Alberto Paccanelli, president of the EURATEX, the United States currently is the EU 2nd largest export market for T&A (over $4.5 billion Euros) and the largest when counting textiles alone. Alberto said that the US market is highly price sensitive and this is one of the reasons why tariffs remain an effective barrier to EU exports. For example, the US still charges a tariff rate as high as 28.2% for imported man-made fiber overcoat and 32% tariff rate for man-made fiber T-shirt. Alberto further added that:

“The EU-US negotiations are the key priority for the EU Textile and Clothing Industry. EURATEX has made a rough assessment on the benefits of the Agreement: it is estimated that exports would register possible annual increases between 2.5% and 3.5% on top of the normal growth rate in Exports due to the Agreement. The EU should strive for duty free access from day one without exceptions and in what concerns Non-Tariff Barriers we should aim at harmonization and mutual recognition. It is also critical to improve access to the Public Procurement Markets and ensure a high level of intellectual property right (IPR) protection and enforcement. The TTIP Agreement should improve business conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), simplifying customs procedures and the costs associated. For the EU Textile and Clothing Industry Rules of Origin are also critical and double transformation should be ensured.”

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