Congress Has Far Reaching Textile Agenda
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent
When the second session of the 107th Congress convenes January 28 it will have considerable unfinished business that will impact the textile industry. While an economic recovery program, taxes and dealing with terrorism and home security will be grabbing the headlines, international trade, tax and farm legislation will be of equal importance to textile manufacturers, organized labor and importers.Just before Congress left for its year-end recess, the Bush administration put forth a nine-point program designed to address some of the U.S. textile industrys economic problems. Several of these issues will require congressional action.One of the first issues likely to come to the forefront is a commitment from the Republican leadership in the House to enact legislation that would require textile and apparel products qualifying for benefits under the Caribbean Trade Partnership Act to be dyed and finished in the U.S. The House leadership promised to deal with this issue at the earliest opportunity, so it could be attached to the first international trade bill to be considered.Legislation that would for the first time incorporate textiles and apparel in an Andean Nation preferential trade program passed the House, much to the consternation of the U.S. textile industry, and is awaiting action in the Senate. Since the current law, which does not include textiles and apparel expired in December, quick action is expected. The American Textile Manufacturers Institute strongly opposes extending the trade preferences to textiles and apparel, but the proposal is supported by the American ApparelandFootwear Association.Legislation granting broad trade promotion authority to the President passed the House by a single vote in last December, and it is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. If the Senate makes any changes in the bill, it will have to return to the House, where there could be another major showdown involving textile state congressmen. The bill passed the House with key support from textile state legislators who voted for it in return for promises from the administration that it would take steps to address textile trade problems. If those members do not feel the administration is following through, they could scuttle the trade promotion bill.In connection with the economic stimulus package passed by the House and pending in the Senate, the textile industry is seeking at least a five-year tax loss carryback, repeal or reform of the alternative minimum tax and faster depreciation for machinery.And, finally the U.S. textile industry will be lobbying hard to safeguard the cotton competitiveness program which is part of the Farm Bill pending in the Senate. The industry wants to eliminate the 1.25 cents per pound differential between world and domestic prices in order for the program to be activated. ATMI estimates that repeal of the 1.25 cent per pound requirement would save American textile companies some $50 million annually.