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Commerce Nominee Supports US Textile Industry And Free Trade Agreements

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Commerce secretary designee Judd Gregg, said by President Barack Obama to be an "able and persuasive ambassador for industry and a skilled negotiator," has been a  supporter of the US textile industry during his more than 15 years in Congress. As a senator from New Hampshire, Gregg voted in favor of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement  (CAFTA-DR), and supported President George Bush's bilateral and multilateral trade initiatives. Obama said Gregg is "a master of reaching across the aisle to get things done."

Carl Spilhaus, president of the National Textile Association, has worked with Gregg for many years, and said he has had easy access to the senator and that Gregg has been supportive of the industry and helpful in connection of a number of "bread and butter issues."

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said he is looking forward to working with Gregg on a number of international trade issues, including President Obama's pledge to crack down on China's unfair trade practices.

On the other hand, Kevin Kearns, president of the United States Business and Industry Council, whose organization has been generally opposed to free trade agreements, was highly critical of the appointment. He says the appointment "completely contradicts what domestic manufacturers understand to be the President's stated view on US trade policy."  He claims that as a senator, Gregg "voted non-stop for bad trade deals that have shipped  overseas thousands of factories and high-wage jobs."

The secretary of Commerce is a key official where the textile industry is concerned, as he is involved in developing and carrying out the administration's trade agenda, and his deputy assistant secretary for textiles and apparel heads up the interagency Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, which has the day-to-day responsibility for interpreting and implementing textile and apparel trade agreements. That position will not be filled until after the secretary is confirmed.

February 10, 2009