TEXTILE IMPORTERS PUSH FOR TRADE LEGISLATION
U.S. textile and apparel importers are frustrated by the government’s failure to fully implement the African and Caribbean trade provisions of the 2000 Trade and Development Act.
Textiles and apparel importers, who stand to gain the most from this legislation, say their future investments in the regions hinge on the full implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA).
“While it has been 14 months since the Trade and Development Act was signed into law in May of 2000, progress toward implementation is limited, with many essential questions unanswered,” said Julia K. Hughes, vice president for international trade and government relations for the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday. “At the rate we are going, it is looking extremely unlikely that there will be final regulations governing the specifics of the new law by this coming October, the one-year anniversary of laws that only have an eight-year term.”
“As a consequence, U.S. importers are hesitant to make substantial commitments to shift business from Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa or to the CBI countries in the absence of certainty as to whether their investments will qualify for duty-free, quota-free treatment,” Hughes said.
The industry largely blames the shortcomings of the trade legislation on Customs’ failure to finalize the import regulations that will apply to the legislation.
Most recent U.S. government trade statistics show that through April, Sub-Saharan African apparel shipments totaled $814.4 million, of which only $11.7 million, or less than 1.5 percent, had received AGOA duty-free benefits. Similarly, less than 15 percent of CBI apparel imports had benefited from the trade legislation.
The USA-ITA outlined some of the crucial problems currently facing the trade legislation:
* Lack of language in the rules for “knit-to-shape” garments.
* The question raised by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., of whether printing and dyeing of greige U.S.-formed fabrics should be required in the United States for apparel made from these fabrics to qualify for AGOA and CBTPA benefits.
* Burdensome and complicated paperwork requirements imposed by Customs for imports under AGOA and CBTPA.
* Customs’ requirement for inputs to be produced by countries which also have formal visa systems in place.
* Lack of qualification under the trade legislation for garments composed of both regional components and U.S.-formed components.
* Customs’ failure to provide guidance on the circumstances under which the limitation on foreign findings and trimmings applies.
“We do not place all of the blame for lack of progress in implementation on Customs,” Hughes said. “Efforts to effectively overturn or rewrite the will of the Congress through the regulatory process are also undermining the success of the law.”
The lack of adequate funds from Congress has also hindered Customs’ implementation of the new law.
“Getting the necessary funding to Customs could greatly increase the ability of the agency to ensure that the Caribbean and African countries entitled to benefits actually understand and implement the law correctly,” Hughes said. “And that would give U.S. importers a greater comfort level in making new investments in these regions.”