NEW YORK — The Textile Distributors Association announced Wednesday that it has become the first textile trade organization to officially give GATT the thumbs-down.
The TDA board of directors Tuesday voted unanimously to oppose the GATT Uruguay Round, the controversial trade pact that still awaits Congressional approval. Thirty-five of the 38 board members were present for the vote at a TDA board meeting at the 500 Club here. Ironically, the TDA was the only textile association not to take an official stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was passed last year.
James Marion, president of the 160-member TDA, who is also president of Bloomsburg Mills, said a meeting of the TDA steering committee is scheduled for Monday to decide what steps the association will take to make its voice heard. Many firms, he said, have already begun anti-GATT letter-writing campaigns to government officials.
“Most of our members are made up of mills and converters, and they will be the ones that are hurt the most by GATT,” said Marion, who, was interviewed with TDA executive director Bruce Roberts at Bloomsburg’s offices here.
“Supporting GATT in the textile industry is indefensible,” Roberts said.
Among the problems Marion and Roberts said they see are limited market access — especially in India and Pakistan — and dumping and transshipping.
While Marion and Roberts said the TDA can’t realistically stop the implementation of GATT at this late stage, “at the very least we want to delay it so that our industry — and the government — has time to scrutinize it,” Marion said.
“If we are going to be beaten, let’s at least be open and outspoken about it,” said Gerald Greenstein, president of JBJ Fabrics, a converter here, and one of the seven members of the TDA steering committee. “Let’s at least look at what it is.”
“Our industry needs to have a collaborative effort in opposing GATT,” added Gerald Rodelli, senior vice president of Stonecutter Mills and a committee member. “Let the government take the same look at GATT as it did with the crime bill and with health care.”
Marion noted that the recent history of his own company can be traced to an already dwindling domestic customer base. Fifteen years ago Bloomsburg employed about 1,000 people and was primarily a supplier of commodity-type fabrics.
“Today,” he said, “we are at about 500. While some of the decrease can be attributed to better operating efficiencies, most of that is due to a lack of business. And maintaining market share is becoming increasingly more difficult.”
Ellen Green, president of the Knitted Textile Association, a trade association that supported NAFTA, said, “GATT will be discussed at our upcoming board meeting [Sept. 22], but as of now we have no position on it.”
The other textile associations that haven’t taken a position on GATT are the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, the Northern Textile Association and the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association.