Cats are chasing dogs, the sun is rising in the west and the import and textile lobbies are working together in Washington.
In the age of President Donald Trump — who is threatening to add tariffs on Mexican imports after pushing to secure a free trade agreement with the country — it seems anything can happen.
In an unusual joint letter Wednesday, Rick Helfenbein, chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, and Kim Glas, ceo of the National Council of Textile Organizations, wrote a “Dear Mr. President” letter hoping to head off the tariffs, which are set to start at 5 percent on Monday and grow to 25 percent in October if Mexico doesn’t help curtail illegal immigration at the southern border.
“Our organizations — which often have divergent approaches to trade policy — are coming together to urge you to refrain from imposing tariffs on U.S. imports from Mexico,” the two lobbyists, who represent a broad swath of the apparel and textile industry, said in their letter.
“Currently, hundreds of thousands of American workers are deployed in production and other key value chains that depend on the North American trade partnership with Mexico, which is the market for half of all U.S. textile exports,” the letter said. “Every day, we export U.S. yarns and fabrics to Mexico, where they are assembled into garments and incorporated into other products to be imported back into the United States.
“An army of U.S. workers — cotton farmers, yarn spinners, fabric weavers, truck drivers, designers, textile scientists, software engineers, logistics experts, compliance professionals, customs brokers, sales clerks, and more — depends on Mexico’s duty-free access to the U.S. market for their jobs.”
The economies of the U.S. and Mexico, as well as Canada, have grown steadily more intertwined since the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted in 1994. But Trump disapproved of the deal and instead pushed for a new arrangement — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — that experts contend largely updates and modernizes NAFTA.
Both NCTO and AAFA and pushing to have the new agreement finalized, but Trump tweeted out his new plans for new tariffs just hours after his administration said it was ready to send the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact for Congressional approval.
But the letter said now “our members are forced to re-evaluate the prognosis for this critically important agreement.”
“New tariffs imposed by the U.S. and the likelihood that Mexico would retaliate cause uncertainty surrounding the future of this important partnership at a time when our members had been planning to re-commit to and grow our North American production and value chains,” the letter said.
Mexico accounted for apparel imports valued at $3.3 billion last year, giving it about 3.9 percent share of the market.