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Washington Outlook Archive
By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

New Textile Lobbying Group Plans Stronger Stand

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A new lobbying organization spearheaded by Roger Milliken and UNITE President Bruce Raynor is moving forward with plans to take a more aggressive, “ no compromise” stand on textile trade issues. Unhappy with what they see as an extremely adverse impact of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Milliken and Raynor believe the time has come for the U.S. textile industry and its workers to take a new tack on trade issues.

They believe the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) and other textile lobbying organizations have been all too willing to compromise on international trade legislation and claim, as a result, the industry has lost nearly one million jobs.

The new organization, known as the American Textile Trade Action Coalition (ATTAC), has hired a veteran Washington lobbyist, Augie Tantillo, as its coordinator and has launched a far-reaching effort to recruit members and raise money.

Some people fear creation of another lobbying organization will undercut the united front the industry tries to present in Washington, but ATMI has adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward the new organization. The marriage of textile and apparel manufacturers and labor unions in the 1980s was a key element in the successful effort to get congressional approval of import quota legislation. That legislation, however, was vetoed by two Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Singapore Pact May Include Strict Rule Of Origin For Textiles

U.S. government trade officials are supporting a “yarn forward” rule of origin in a proposed U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, a move that pleases U.S. textile manufacturers but gives importers and overseas exporters heartburn.

The rule of origin would be similar to that of NAFTA, which requires products benefiting from the free-trade pact be made with yarn and fabric produced in the participating nations. It is designed to help the U.S. textile industry and guard against transshipments of apparel in which the yarn or fabric is manufactured in another country.

The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel has told the U.S. Trade Representative that a NAFTA-like rule of origin for Singapore would be “inappropriate” and said, instead, a “substantial transformation standard” with a 35-percentvalue-added requirement would make more sense.

The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is particularly significant because the U.S. Trade Representative has announced plans to expand it to include Indonesia. 

Industry Group Attacking Strong-Dollar Problems

Textile manufacturers have joined a broad-based coalition of labor industry and agriculture interests that have launched a campaign against the strong dollar, which, they say, is raising havoc in international trade.

The Sound Dollar Caucus includes more than 40 trade associations representing textiles and textile machinery, steel, automobiles, paper and other forest products, cotton, the AFL-CIO and a wide-range of other manufacturing industries.

The U.S. dollar, which is at a 16-year high, has the practical effect of making imports cheaper and raising the price tags on American-made products abroad.

The American Textile Manufacturers Institute, one of the founders of the Sound Dollar Caucus, blames devalued Asian currencies and U.S. strong-dollar policies for many of its current economic woes.

ATMI says that in the late ’90s, the currencies of almost all the major textile-exporting countries were devalued, causing a “shock wave of artificially low-priced textile and apparel products to hit the United States.”

May 2002