textiles, sustainability, materials

China’s grip on apparel production extends into the global medical textile supply chain, but with the right domestic policy in place that can be turned around, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations’ leader.

In advance of testifying at a U.S. Senate Homeland Security meeting Wednesday, the NCTO’s president and chief executive officer Kim Glas shared some key points.

Testifying on “COVID-19 Part II: Evaluating the Medical Supply Chain and Pandemic Response Gaps,” she said, “The time is ripe for a revival of American PPE textile manufacturing. It has already begun but we are at a pivotal point.”

By her account without the necessary policy response, any progress will be undone and China’s “stranglehold over global medical textile supply will be locked in for the foreseeable future with no reason to invest here.”

During an interview Tuesday, Ferrera Manufacturing’s Gabrielle Ferrera also made the point that as apparel production in China has come back on line, the competition for domestic personal protective equipment manufacturers has intensified. The New York-based Ferrera Manufacturing is part of an effort to fulfill a federal government order to make 17 million masks.

Earlier this month the federal Food and Drug Administration issued its latest list of medical device shortages with PPE gloves, medical gowns and surgical apparel among numerous other items.

Glas’ policy recommendations to establish a permanent domestic supply chain include setting up strong domestic procurement rules for federal PPE purchases, and other essential products that would be similar to the Berry Amendment and the Kissell Amendment, which require 100 percent U.S. content from fiber production forward. Implementing forward-looking policies to shore up the Strategic National Stockpile and issuing long-range contracts to incentivize investment in the domestic PPE manufacturing base was another suggestion.

Before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Glas’ written testimony highlighted the need to create federal incentives for private sector hospitals and large provider networks to purchase U.S.-made PPE. She also urged continuing to deploy the Defense Production Act to drum up the industrial base from raw materials to end products for all essential products.

Glas served as the deputy assistant secretary for textiles, consumer goods and Materials in the Commerce Department during the Obama administration.

Last year the U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 530,000 people. The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $64.4 billion last year. In addition, U.S. exports of fiber, textiles and apparel were $25.4 billion.

Capital expenditures for textiles and apparel production totaled $2.38 billion in 2019, which was the most recent year that data was available.