WTO Will Negotiate Textile Issues
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent
While the Bush administration has steadfastly said it will not agree to any speed-up for removal of quotas, the issue remains on the table and is of concern to U.S. manufacturers. The question of how to address tariff reductions is wide open at this time.
Many in the WTO would like to see an across-the-board percentage cut in tariffs, but the U.S. industry contends that would not be fair, as many countries currently have tariffs ranging as high as 70 percent, while U.S. tariffs average 13 percent. Industry representatives are urging U.S. negotiators to resist any tariff cuts and focus instead on the duties that other nations levy on imports. Retailers and importers of textiles and apparel would like to see all tariffs removed everywhere in order to encourage freer trade.
In a statement regarding trade issues, President George W. Bush said: “I will insist that we press open foreign markets for our textile products as a part of future trade agreements, and that our trading partners comply with the rules of our existing arrangements. In short, I intend to ensure that the interests of our textile industry and workers are at the heart of our trade negotiations.”
FTC Issues Warning On 'Made In USA' Labeling
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a “Consumer Alert” warning consumers, retailers and manufacturers that unscrupulous textile and clothing manufacturers may take advantage of the wave of patriotism following the September 11 terrorist attack and mislabel their products “ Made in U.S.A.” The FTC warning says consumers are seeking products that are “Made in U.S.A.” with the expectation that the claim is “truthful and accurate.” There is no law requiring manufacturers in general to disclose U.S.
content, but many do so for marketing purposes. However, in the case of textiles and apparel, there is a law requiring labels on every product to state where the product is manufactured. The textile labeling act is quite specific in that all U.S.-made products have to have a “Made in U.S.A.” or equivalent phrase; products made in the United States of imported materials must so state, and products made in part in the United States and partly abroad must identify both countries.
More Textile And Apparel Quotas Dropped
The third phase of the 10-year phase-out of textile and apparel quotas going into effect this month lifts restrictions on a verity of yarns, fabrics, made-up goods and apparel. Products now free from import quotas include: some textured and non-textured filament yarns, man-made fiber staple yarns and some silk yarns; knit fabrics, wool tapestry fabrics and glass fiber fabrics; made-up goods, including luggage and some table linens, non-terry towels and blankets; and apparel products, including brassieres, robes and dressing gowns. Details, including specific product categories, are available on the Office of Textiles website: http://otexa.ita.doc.gov/fedreg/finaslfr.stm.
Textile Industry Gets More Promises From Bush On Trade
The U.S. textile industry and its supporters in Congress have extracted a far-ranging, nine-point commitment from the Bush administration to address international trade issues that are contributing to the industry’s severe economic problems. Letters from Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans to members of the Congressional Textile Caucus say President Bush recognizes the “competitive challenges” facing the industry and promises to work closely with members of Congress “to level the playing field for our industry internationally.” The program outlined by Evans says the administration will:
1. Work aggressively to pursue the opening of foreign markets to U.S. textiles and apparel in any future trade agreements, making reciprocal market access in the textile and apparel market a priority in trade.
2. Place high priority on enforcing existing trade agreements and closely monitor foreign textile
3. Resist efforts on the part of some developing countries to accelerate the textile quota phase-out now scheduled to be completed by 2005, noting that the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing covering quotas was carefully balanced to provide the U.S. industry with a gradual transition to eventual removal of all quotas.
4. Help U.S. textile companies take advantage of the benefits of U.S. tariff preference programs, including the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This will emphasize requirements to use U.S.-manufactured yarn and fabrics.
5. Conduct market promotion programs with a variety of trade shows, seminars and other events under the Commerce Department’s Export Promotion Program.
6. Combat illegal textile transshipments by strengthening customs enforcement both under U.S. Customs laws and in connection with any future trade agreements, ensuring that they include clear and enforceable rules of origin.
7. In connection with the administration’s program to assist Pakistan in return for its support of the anti-terrorist program, to work with Congress to minimize the impact of any such efforts on the U.S. textile and apparel industry.
8. Expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program to better address the needs of textile and apparel workers who lose their jobs as a result of international trade.
9. Enforce anti-dumping and other trade remedy laws generally and on behalf of the textile industry in particular.
While the Evans letter outlines a comprehensive approach to addressing textile trade issues, much of what is contained in the letters depends on just how diligent and effective the administration will be in following through on its promises and to what extent Congress will go along with them.
OSHA Agrees To Reporting Changes
An agreement between the National Association of Manufacturers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to modify new reporting rules, which go into effect this month, incorporates some changes supported by the textile industry. Key among the changes is an agreement that during the first 120 days after January 1, OSHA compliance officers will not issue citations for violation of the new rules if employers can demonstrate they are making a good-faith effort to comply. OSHA also agreed to clarify its definition of work-related injuries. The agreement does not affect OSHA’s earlier decision to delay implementation of three other provisions of the rule for at least a year. Those provisions include criteria for recording work-related hearing loss, the rule’s definition of musculoskeletal disorders and the method for reporting such disorders. Additional information about the new reporting rules is available on OSHA’s website: www.osha.gov.
Editor’s Note: Blending the best of Textile Industries and Textile World, the new Textile World will continue to publish James A. Morrissey’s Washington Outlook column.
Accredited by the U.S. Congress Periodical Press Association, Morrissey has reported extensively on Washington developments affecting the textile industry for more than 30 years.