WASHINGTON — Importer and textile groups are pushing for two opposing approaches to tariff reductions in the current round of global trade talks.
Importers are urging the Bush Administration to obtain zero duty rates on apparel and textile imports from the 143 World Trade Organization member nations in exchange for the U.S. reducing its own duties to zero. The domestic textile industry, however, is opposed to that approach. Textile officials are requesting the U.S. demand WTO nations to lower their tariffs to U.S. levels.
On Monday, the two sides put their positions on the record at a public hearing before a panel of officials from the State Department, Department of Labor, Commerce Department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the International Trade Commission.
"It is [our] strong belief that the United States must be willing to reduce its tariffs on textile and apparel products, which are high even among industrialized nations, much less developing nations," said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel.
Hughes said U.S. tariffs on textile and apparel products, which she calls "regressive," are high even when compared to other developed countries. She said the U.S. has a 28.2 percent duty on synthetic knit trousers for women’s and girls’, for example, while the European Union duty rate is 12 percent and Japan’s is 10.9 percent for the product category.
Stephen Lamar, senior vice president at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, who also supports a reduction and/or elimination of tariffs, said tariff barriers no longer protect domestic industries, since the majority of all apparel sold in the U.S. is produced offshore, but add extra costs to operations and to the prices of products.
"All these barriers, including those maintained by the United States, distort trade and production patterns," Lamar testified, claiming that U.S. importers of textiles, apparel and footwear collectively paid $9.5 billion in duties in 2001. "This means our industries paid $1 out of every $2 collected by Customs, even though we only account for 8 percent of all imports."
Tom Torrance, WTO desk officer at the State Department, asked Lamar what percentage of his member companies use U.S. preferential programs, such as the African Growth & Opportunity Act and the NAFTA and what effect a reduction of tariffs would have on these programs, which offer special treatment.Lamar said many of his members use U.S. preferential programs, but he claimed it is "hard to say" whether tariff reductions will force companies to move out of those areas.
On the opposite side of the debate, Charles Bremer, vice president of international trade at the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, claimed the U.S. has given "generously" in terms of enhanced market access in textiles and apparel, but has not received reciprocal treatment from other nations.
"By maintaining high tariffs and a bewildering array of non-tariff barriers, these countries who consider international trade in textiles and apparel a one-way street have kept the United States and other countries out of their domestic market," Bremer said.
Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Egypt, China and Vietnam are among the developing countries that maintain high tariffs on U.S. apparel and textile exports.
Torrance at the State Department asked how the U.S. could "sell" the idea of demanding that developing countries lower their tariffs to U.S. imports in light of the language in the WTO declaration, which states developing countries do not have to offer "full reciprocity" in negotiations.
Bremer said it is his hope that developing countries will lower tariffs and trade more among themselves. He claimed the U.S. industry can provide the fabrics many countries use to export clothes.
"The largest denim producer in India was selling denim for $1 more a yard than our domestic industry," Bremer said. "But we couldn’t sell into that market because tariffs were so high."
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)