NEW YORK — Twelve textile and apparel industry associations have thrown their support behind the Breaux-Cardin rule-of-origin amendment to the GATT Uruguay Round.
The amendment, introduced in the Senate by John Breaux (D., La.) and in the House by Ben Cardin (D., Md.), requires that country-of-origin status be granted only to the nation in which an apparel product is actually assembled, or a textile product is actually manufactured.
The amendment is now before a House-Senate Conference Committee for final determination.
The associations, which represent some 2 million U.S. fiber, textile and apparel industry employees, said they are concerned that retailers and importers will continue to push for the current rule of origin, which applies to the country where a fabric is first cut. Cutting, they said, represents only 5 percent of the cost of a garment. “Thus, fabric made in China, cut in Japan and sewn into apparel in China would enter the U.S. as ‘Made in Japan,’ ” said Seth Bodner, executive director of the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association, one of the signatories.
Bodner said the Breaux-Cardin amendment would prevent countries such as Hong Kong “from exploiting its unfilled quotas with Chinese-sewn goods.”
“Under the Breaux-Cardin amendment, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore will continue to have increased access to our market,” said Bodner, “but they will have to manufacture the goods in their own country, rather than in China or Vietnam.”
While the 12 associations are not officially opposing GATT, Bodner said he hopes the push for the Breaux-Cardin amendment will “open some people’s eyes.”
“We think that people who have been opposed to GATT will now be vehemently opposed, those who have been on the fence will now oppose it, and even those who have worried about GATT will become even more concerned,” Bodner said.
Bodner added that the failure to include the amendment in the GATT package will “further erode the domestic fiber, textile and apparel industry.”
The importing community, however, doesn’t see it that way.
The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel is calling for Congress to drop the Breaux-Cardin amendment “to help American families escape the high hidden taxes textile and apparel protection imposes on them,” said Laura Jones, executive director of the USA-ITA.
Jones noted that a study on the impact of the amendment by the Trade Partnership Analysis showed that if the amendment resulted in a reduction of quota by only 5 percent, import prices could rise by 4.4 percent. The study also notes that “with less apparel goods to sell, 28,000 jobs are at risk.”
“The domestic industry is never satisfied,” Jones added. “They want more protection regardless of what it costs employees. The amendment won’t save one job, nor will it create any new jobs. It will just cost the consumer more and disrupt our business.”
“That is as preposterous a claim as I have heard in this whole textile trade controversy,” said Carlos Moore, executive director of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, which also signed the statement. “[The amendment] will police the situation so that countries like China play by rules. The importers’ violent opposition leads us to believe that they want to make China the garment maker of the world.”
Last week, the Textile Distributors Association — a group of 160 mills, converters and fiber producers — voted to oppose GATT. The TDA was not one of the 12 associations signing the statement, nor was it approached to sign it, said TDA executive director Bruce Roberts.
In addition to the NKSA and ATMI, the statement was also signed by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union; the American Apparel Contractors Association; the American Apparel Manufacturers Association; the American Fiber Manufacturers Association; the American Yarn Spinners Association; the Atlantic Apparel Contractors Association; The International Lakes Garment Workers Union; the National Cotton Council of America; the Northern Textile Association, and the South East Manufacturers and Suppliers Association.