WASHINGTON — The American Apparel & Footwear Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles and Apparel on Wednesday to facilitate a deeper business-to-business dialogue between U.S. and Chinese apparel and textile companies.

Officials from the AAFA, which represents 1,000 major U.S. brands, said the MOU is significant because it will help open new lines of communication between its members and the 12,000 apparel and textile companies represented by the CCCT. The new partnership is intended to create a forum to address a host of issues, including counterfeiting — China represents the largest amount of seized counterfeit goods in the U.S. — and product safety concerns, as well as more positive aspects such as exporting and investment.

“The MOU will…expand the AAFA brand awareness and visibility globally; it will further our partnership with China, which is very important; it will create value for our members to understand what happens on the ground in China, and it will create a mechanism for policy-makers to learn more about China,” said Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the AAFA.

Duggan said in an interview that the new partnership will serve as a “hotline” through creating new points of contact for both associations, which she said “will facilitate a lot of problem solving.”

Rick Helfenbein, chairman of the AAFA and president of Luen Thai USA, said China’s share of the U.S. apparel and textile import market (currently standing at 48 percent) has not changed much in the past five years, despite rising labor costs that have forced many companies to diversify more of their sourcing.

“The fact that the two major organizations like CCCT and AAFA can now talk to each other…is going to be a major milestone in our industry,” Helfenbein said.

Jiang Hui, chairman of the CCCT, proposed establishing joint projects, including trade missions, trade fairs and seminars and training programs.

“The impact of the global economic situation has become far reaching and extensive,” he said. “In order to better respond to the ever-changing business environment, CCCT is willing to join hands and set up a long-term partnership with our American colleagues.”

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