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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Interagency Group Will Address Textile Industry Problems

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

R esponding to pressure from the U.S. textile industry and its supporters in Congress, U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans has announced formation of an interagency working group to address international trade and economic issues plaguing the industry. Although the working group enjoys the strong support of the U.S. textile industry, importers have raised concerns about whether their views will be adequately considered.

Laura Jones, executive director of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, warned, “You can’t evaluate what is happening on the manufacturing side without understanding what is happening on the importing and retailing side.”

While the interagency working groups have not yet established a mechanism for receiving input from various segments of the industry, Commerce Department officials told Textile World they are aware of the importers’ concerns, which will be “taken into account” as work goes forward.

Evans said the working group, comprised of representatives from the Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury and Justice, as well as the U.S. Trade Representative and National Security Council, will work to implement the nine-point program the administration announced in December (See “Washington Outlook,” www. TextileWorld.com, January 2002).

The working group’s far-ranging agenda includes establishing trade agreement negotiating objectives, ways to get compliance and enforcement of already existing trade agreements, implementation of the quota phase-out under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, tariff preference programs and export expansion for textiles and apparel. The group also will address how to combat illegal transshipments of textiles and apparel, and how best to provide trade adjustment assistance for companies and employees impacted by imports.

USDA Continues Cotton Promotion Assessments
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will continue the mandatory assessments on upland cotton production and imports of cotton textiles and apparel to support the Cotton Research and Promotion Program. Assessments of roughly $2.25 per bale on upland cotton production and the bale equivalents of cotton products provided $63 million last year for the research and promotion programs of Cotton Incorporated, Cary, N.C. The funds are used for advertising and a variety of research and promotional activities designed to encourage greater consumption of cotton textile products.

A voluntary contribution program was initiated in the 1960s, but Congress made it mandatory in 1990. Domestic mills and apparel companies pay the assessment if they import raw cotton or cotton textile and apparel products. U.S. importers are opposed to the mandatory aspect of the program, charging that it simply amounts to an ultimate tax on consumers.

Under the law, the USDA is required every five years to review the program and determine whether there is justification for a referendum on continuation of the program among producers and importers. The USDA said this year’s review showed there is a general consensus that the program is working as intended, so it likely will be continued for another five years.

EPA Studies Rule On Air Pollutants
ook for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to soon issue its long-awaited proposed regulation setting the Maximum Achievable Control Technology for hazardous air pollutants. The new rule could affect how textile manufacturers control emissions from a wide variety of wet processes.

In anticipation of the new regulation, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), Washington, has been providing the EPA with economic and technical data in the hope that the regulation will be practical and economically achievable by an industry already suffering from the recession and foreign
competition.

Issuance of the EPA regulation has a May “drop dead” date, when state regulators will move in if there is no federal regulation. The textile industry would much rather deal with a single federal rule rather than a rash of state regulations.

Spooner Named Chief Textile Negotiator
The appointment of David Spooner as special textile negotiator certainly has gone down well with the U.S. textile industry, and importing and retail interests don’t seem to have any problems with him either. Spooner was legislative director for Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), a strong supporter of the U.S. textile industry, and served as her advisor on textile trade issues.

In announcing the appointment, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said Spooner’s textile and Capitol Hill experience provides an “important and special perspective.” Spooner is expected to play a role where textiles are concerned in the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations and in the Bush administration’s efforts to get greater overseas market access for U.S. textiles and apparel.

March 2002



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