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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Apparel Executive Sees New Opportunities

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The head of a major apparel trade association today outlined what he sees as domestic and overseas market opportunities for US apparel companies stemming from the Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations.

In a keynote address at Prime Source — an apparel sourcing meeting in Hong Kong — Kevin Burke, president of the Arlington, Va.-based American Apparel & Footwear Association, said a reduction in tariff and nontariff barriers to trade could open new opportunities in what he described as fast-growing markets in countries such as China, India and Brazil. He said this would “ move world apparel trade forward — to the benefit of US apparel firms and supplier countries worldwide, as well as consumers.”

While noting the decline of apparel jobs in the United States from 2.2 million in 1974 to 627,000 today, Burke said today’s US apparel industry is largely focused on marketing brands of products designed, sourced, distributed and sold by US workers that are manufactured elsewhere. Burke said now that textile and apparel quotas for all intents and purposes have been removed, US apparel manufacturers have “more opportunities to source the best products at the best price in the best amount of time under the best working and environmental conditions.”

He said the “bottom line” is US apparel firms now have a wider variety of high-quality, reasonably priced clothes that can be profitable.

He called for an end to all US clothing duties, which average about 13 percent; and elimination of nontariff barriers such as labeling requirements, customs measures, product standards and distribution restrictions, which are employed by overseas countries.

Describing these restrictions as “ridiculous,” Burke said, “If we are good enough to make a product there, we should be able to sell our product there.” 

March 28, 2006