WASHINGTON — A bill designed to save tens of thousands of U.S. textile jobs is being sent to the President for his signature, now that the Senate on Wednesday approved the measure.
Lawmakers from textile-producing states for more than a year have been fighting to keep textile dyeing, printing and finishing jobs from being lost to the Caribbean Basin. At issue is a Customs ruling put into a trade bill passed two years ago by Congress granting duty-free breaks to apparel made in the region of U.S. textiles.
Customs said garments could still receive duty-free treatment even if U.S. textiles were finished in the region. A measure, contained in a government spending bill and passed by the House and Senate this week, reverses the Customs ruling.
The $28.9 billion spending bill goes to paying for the war on terrorism, rebuilding lower Manhattan and stepping up security at the ports.
The dyeing, printing and finishing issue made it into the spending bill because of promise exacted in December by Rep. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) from House Republican leadership. Leadership needed DeMint’s vote to pass a bill granting the President trade negotiating authority. That measure passed by just one vote.
The DeMint bill also would affect apparel produced in the Andean countries of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. House and Senate negotiators are now negotiating final details of a bill dropping duties on Andean apparel.
“We have passed a provision that will secure more than 100,000 textile jobs and help preserve the future for a vital industry,” DeMint said.
Retailers and other apparel importers argue limiting dyeing, printing and finishing of U.S. textiles to the U.S. makes the Caribbean Basin and Andean trade bills not commercially viable.
However, officials in the domestic textile industry are gleeful about the DeMint bill’s passage.
“This is a major victory for U.S. textile companies and U.S. textile workers,” said Van May, chairman of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and president of the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association. “It shows that, by working together, our industry and our supporters in Congress can succeed in making sure that we have a U.S. trade policy that is fair to American textile manufacturers.”