A bipartisan group of 15 senators urged President Obama to give U.S. apparel shippers more flexibility in sourcing under the proposed free trade agreement with Asia-Pacific countries.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal calls for all materials that go into apparel to come from and be assembled in TPP partner countries to be exempt from tariffs, according to a May 1 letter sent by the senators to Obama. The senators argue that this “yarn-forward position,” which would stand even if the materials weren’t available, would stifle U.S. exports and American job creation.
The U.S. is participating with other Pacific Rim nations in negotiations designed to streamline trade regulations and boost trade volumes among the member countries. The TPP countries are Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, and Canada, Mexico and Japan are seeking a seat at the table.
“U.S. market access for apparel good from TPP countries is an essential tool the United States has to use as leverage in these negotiations,” wrote the senators.
U.S. tariffs on clothing and home lines from TPP countries totaled nearly $1.2 billion in 2010. That was about 68 percent of the total U.S. tariffs collected from those countries last year.
The senators noted that the Obama administration isn’t directly involved in the TPP negotiations but is following the pact and discussing the agreement with Congress before the final package is voted on. The letter from the senators comes after a bipartisan group of 30 House representatives wrote U.S. Ambassador Ron Kirk a letter in October asking for a similar approach.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association is also urging U.S. negotiators to reduce footwear tariffs that cost consumers millions of dollars a year in higher prices. Twenty-seven members of Congress wrote Kirk a letter in April asking him to modernize U.S. footwear rules and tariffs.