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Textile News
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Key Textile Trade Official Leaving Government

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

James C. Leonard III, who for more than 4 years has played a major role in implementing the US government’s textile and apparel trade policies, is retiring this month. As deputy assistant secretary for textiles and apparel in the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce, Leonard was chairman of the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), the interagency group that develops procedures and carries out textile and apparel trade policies.

During his term as deputy assistant secretary, Leonard was at the center of some of the department’s often controversial, but far-reaching policies, including overseeing the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and the 25 free trade agreements (FTAs) the Bush administration has negotiated. Probably the most significant effort was the development of procedures that led to the imposition of safeguard quotas on Chinese textile and apparel imports. In connection with the FTAs, CITA and the US Trade Representative have continued a yarn-forward provision first established in connection with NAFTA. That principle requires products benefiting from duty-fee, quota-free treatment be made in the participating countries. In some cases, there are provisions permitting a specified amount of goods to contain inputs from non-participating countries, something that was supported by importers but strongly opposed by textile manufacturers.

In an interview with Textile World as he prepared to step down, Leonard said major changes have taken place in the textile industry and the international trade picture. He noted the industry is much smaller with fewer companies, but believes there are opportunities for the surviving companies if they are willing and able to adjust to the changing world trade picture. He cited industrial textiles and the military as areas where innovations are leading to development of new products. In addition, he is convinced there are export opportunities for those countries willing to make the commitment to do so. He says there already is a resurgence of interest in exporting by an increasing number of textile and apparel companies, and he adds that his agency has been strongly promoting exports and will continue to do so.

Looking to the future, Leonard said the Bush administration has made it clear it is on a track to liberalize world trade, including textiles and apparel. He said there likely will be more FTAs, and administration officials will continue to pursue the Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations, which currently is on dead center. In addition, a big job lies ahead in implementing CAFTA-DR.

Prior to entering government service Leonard worked for Greensboro, N.C.-based Burlington Industries — now part of International Textile Group — for 34 years. He plans to return to North Carolina, where he hopes to stay involved with the textile industry and textile trade.

September 12, 2006