Byline: Kristi Ellis

WASHINGTON — U.S. sanctions on Ukrainian women’s and men’s apparel would take a heavy financial toll on domestic apparel manufacturers and importers who have invested millions in the country’s apparel infrastructure.
That was the message delivered by several apparel executives last week at a public hearing sponsored by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The U.S. government has threatened to slap prohibitive sanctions on a broad range of Ukrainian apparel and footwear exports to the U.S. if the country does not crack down on optical media piracy, which includes products such as CDs, CD-ROMs and DVDs. Ukraine could also lose its special duty-free status for certain products.
In pleading their case at the hearing, apparel executives from shirtmaker Phillips-Van Heusen, The Levy Group outerwear firm and the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel contended it would be next to impossible to shift sourcing and find alternative production in a short period of time. Some also claimed the retaliation would force them out of business because every product made in the Ukraine would be affected regardless of whether it is on the sanctions list. Lastly, they noted the sanctions on apparel will not be a deterrent to the Ukrainian government.
“In its turn, [the government] will eliminate for the U.S. side the need to impose any trade sanctions because of the underlying causes of the entire optical media piracy problem will be effectively removed,” Yaroslav Voitko, chief of the trade and economic mission of the Ukrainian Embassy, told the panel.
He claimed Ukraine has taken steps that will resolve the issues, including a new version of a law on copyright and related rights that just went into effect and the approval of a new law regulating the manufacturing and sales of optical media devices in line with the U.S.-Ukraine Joint Action Plan.
The U.S. imported $82.2 million in textile and apparel products from the Ukraine for the year ending in May, according to the Commerce Department. Of that total, apparel imports accounted for $78.7 million.