By  on March 27, 2013

WASHINGTON — After two decades of consolidation in the U.S. textile industry, three textile lobbying and trade groups have agreed to merge and form a new association with a more unified and stronger voice in Washington.

Citing 30 years of “failed government trade policy” and contraction in the textile industry, the National Textile Association — the oldest textile trade association in the U.S. — said Wednesday that it has voted to cease operations and turn its assets and membership list over to the National Council of Textile Organizations. The merger will be effective Monday, according to NTA.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition is the third association taking part in the merger, according to NTA. A fourth association, the American Fiber Manufacturers Association, initially said to be part of the talks, did not ultimately join the merger and will remain a separate entity, although it is an active member of NCTO, according to an AMFA spokeswoman.

The new and broadened organization will operate under the existing NCTO name. Cass Johnson, current president of NCTO, could not be reached for comment.

“It is a sad day when a 159-year-old organization effectively serving its members decides to close its doors,” said Hank Truslow Sr., chairman of Sunbury Textile Mills, the only U.S. fabric maker that was a member of both NTA and NCTO prior to the merger. “We attribute this historic denouement to failed and destructive government trade policies under the last five presidents, Republican and Democratic.”

Overall, textile mills saw employment drop from 701,100 jobs in 1990 to 231,800 last month.

George Shuster, chairman of Cranston Print Works, chairman of NTA and cochairman of AMTAC, said, “The creation of this merged organization will allow the domestic textile industry to more quickly and effectively address the wide range of federal policy developments of importance to the over 1.5 million workers in the United States whose jobs are either directly or indirectly tied to this critical manufacturing sector.”

Karl Spilhaus, longtime president of NTA, said his members are “survivors of a turbulent economic climate, characterizing the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that made our American industry great.” Spilhaus will not be affiliated with the new NCTO but will continue to direct the activities of the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, whose members include Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana.

NTA said the merger with NCTO’s representation of the wool textile industry, upholstery fabrics and knitted textiles will enhance the merged organization’s geographic breadth and reach. NTA’s Flock Association will also bring to NCTO a new textile sector.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and 10 other countries could significantly impact trade flows in the textile sector and is an example of why the industry is seeking a stronger, more unified posture in Washington. The industry is pressing for a yarn-forward rule of origin that requires apparel to be made of fabric and yarns supplied by the U.S. or other TPP signatory countries to qualify for duty-free benefits when shipped back to the U.S.

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