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Textile News
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Congressional Group Backs New Trade Policies

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

US textile manufacturers and other industries have thrown their support behind a bipartisan group of House members and senators who are calling for a “new direction for trade.” The congressional coalition, with a few new members added, was influential in supporting the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, members of the congressional coalition did not lay out any specific agenda, but they are calling for more congressional involvement and oversight on trade matters. They said they will be playing an active role in the proposed extension of the president’s trade promotion authority (TPA), promoting overseas labor standards, addressing currency manipulation and “ensuring that the American work force can compete in global markets.”

The Washington-based American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) endorsed the coalition’s call for new directions in trade, and called for a “comprehensive approach” to a number of trade issues likely to come before Congress this year. AMTAC’s list of priorities includes TPA extension, which it opposes; action on currency manipulation addressing the problem of value-added tax rebates in other countries; and the South Korean free trade agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated. AMTAC has been urging the US government to use access to the US market as leverage to open more overseas markets for US goods.

The Washington-based US Business and Industry Council (USBIC) — which represents some 1,500 small and medium-sized companies — strongly supports the coalition, saying its legislative goals could ensure the survival of US manufacturing. USBIC joined other organizations in attacking currency manipulation, value-added tax rebates and extension of TPA; and went even further by calling for a moratorium on additional FTAs.

USBIC President Kevin L. Kearns noted the United States has lost 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 and had a record $763 billion trade deficit in 2006. He said that while international labor and environmental standards are important goals, they cannot by themselves create new US jobs and help domestic manufacturers. “The only market that we can truly regulate is our own, and we need to use that lever of access to promote our own domestic industries,” Kearns said.

March 13, 2007