The fiery rhetoric and brash style that drove Donald Trump into the presidency has translated into a much more pragmatic policy reality — at least when it comes to much of the regulatory nuance that matters to fashion.
That doesn’t mean that Trump has toned down. He has stayed true to form, drawing Internet ire for commenting that French First Lady Brigitte Macron is in “good shape.” He also lashed out on Twitter on Tuesday as his long-promised repeal of former President Obama’s signature health care law seemed to go down in flames in the Senate. And then there’s the roiling scandal of whether — or to what degree — his campaign colluded with Russia during the election.
But underneath all that, the Trump administration is seen by industry lobbyists as generally responsive to their concerns.
For instance, Trump publicly toyed with the idea of pulling the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but ended up kicking off an effort to renegotiate the deal.
And the administration’s recently revealed priorities in that effort left fashion’s Washington contingent hopeful. The administration said it would, “maintain existing duty-free access to NAFTA country markets for U.S. textile and apparel products and seek to improve competitive opportunities for exports of U.S. textile and apparel products while taking into account U.S. import sensitivities.”
For Trump the outsider, that’s a very insider approach that seeks to maintain the status quo while improving at the margins.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association said the administration’s objectives “reflect many of the concerns we shared during the consultation period” and that “the administration’s emphasis that changes to the agreement be implemented ‘seamlessly’ is especially encouraging, as is the emphasis on intellectual property protection and streamlining commerce between the three nations.”
Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the AAFA, noted: “There has been a lot of rhetoric about what NAFTA meant for the American economy and the American people. What’s coming out now is a much more pragmatic approach to how this NAFTA modernization exercise should be taken.”
Lamar noted that it’s a migration that politicians regularly make.
“Any candidate has to go through translating campaign rhetoric into policies; it’s where the rubber hits the road,” he said.
Jason Brewer, executive vice president of communications and state affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, added that, “Governing is much more difficult than campaigning and implementing some of the things that were promised on the campaign trail are proving to be more difficult than perhaps some people expected.”
Brewer said the Trump administration has made headway, appointing “conservative business people” to key positions overseeing labor and that tax reform is still in the offing.
“We think the administration is making progress on tax reform,” Brewer said. “It’s slow and steady, but it looks like there’s an agreement that at last appears to be shaping up behind the scenes between folks in the White House and Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.”
For now, the border adjustment tax seems to be off the table, but the fashion lobbying set is watching closely since the tax, which would be applied to foreign made goods, could hit apparel brands hard.
Bruce Rockowitz, chief executive officer of Global Brands Group, told investors last month of the U.S.: “It’s actually quite a strong market. It’s just a question of where you are in the U.S. The only wild card, and everyone has the same issue — or if you’re a Trump supporter, it’s not an issue — but most people are nervous about the things that Trump may or may not do.
“The one thing we can see is a lot of the things that we felt were risks to the business that President Trump actually talked about before the election, don’t seem like they’re either imminent or will happen,” he said.
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