Byline: Ray Clune

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Southeastern apparel manufacturers have been warned to watch out for and mobilize against efforts to hasten the phaseout of textile and apparel import quotas.
Although quotas reached under the Multi-Fiber Arrangement are to be phased out over a 10-year period, U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D., S.C.) and Troy Cribb, deputy assistant secretary for textiles, apparel and consumer industries, Commerce Department, told members of the Southeastern Apparel Manufacturers & Suppliers Association (SEAMS) that retailers and importers are mounting significant efforts to erase quota restrictions.
The two spoke at the SEAMS Show & Conference, held last week at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart.
“Retailers and importers are getting very organized, and they’ve got a lot of money,” said Cribb, who also chairs the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements. “They are starting to do some grassroots efforts. They have a total blitz on the media to try to demonize my office and to demonize the policy of imposing import restrictions.”
Spratt said, “We’ve got to fight the efforts by retailers to wipe out CITA. Without CITA, you won’t have anyone to focus attention on transshipment, fraud and evasion.”
“There is a lot of pressure to somehow speed up the 10-year phaseout [of MFA quotas],” Cribb further noted in an interview. “I feel very strongly that 10 years has been promised to our industry and the least we can do is stick with it, because it’s a very difficult time of adjustment for this industry.
“We have the exporting countries pushing for it and there are a lot of lobbyists in Washington who are pushing a speedup of the phaseout, so people are going to have to watch that very closely.”
On other matters, Harvey Hellman, SEAMS president, said the group’s executive committee also met with Marie Echaveste, head of the wage and hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We were exploring the possibility of setting up a compliance program for manufacturers and contractors in the Southeast — not the adversarial relationship that they have in looking for sweatshops — but a compliance program where we would be able to certify our members,” Hellman explained. “Maybe, at some point in the future, we could say that all members of our organization are certified and that they adhere to all of the wage and house laws of the U.S. We’ve got 376 member companies in this little association, and I am sure that all of them pay above minimum wage.”
The exhibit section of the conference spotlighted an array of specialized sewing units making golf shirts and skirts. Show attendees could purchase material for the golf shirt at $5 or the skirt at $10 and walk the materials through the specialized sewing units and watch their garments being made.
Among the new equipment, Eastman Machine featured a high-speed computer-controlled plotter/cutter system. “We just started manufacturing this equipment,” said Mel Berzack, vice president. “In addition to our traditional handheld cutters, we now have an automatic cutter.”
Pegasus was showing an integrated sewing unit for serging with a new fabric guide to position the fabric effortlessly. “It can be operated automatically,” said Doug Goins, area manager. “It will sew automatically. It will stop and stack the goods, and it will count the pieces as it stacks.”

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