The Apparel Industry on Both Sides of the Atlantic Push for Regulatory Coherence in the TTIP negotiation

TTIP

The European Apparel and Textile Confederation (EURATEX) and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), the two leading trade associations representing the apparel industry in the EU and US respectively, released their joint comment on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on December 13, pushing negotiators of the agreement to address the regulatory challenges that affect the apparel business across the Atlantic.  Specifically, the diverse labeling and product safety requirements between EU and US are identified as the two leading regulatory hurdles for the apparel business. Other issues of concern to the EURATEX and AAFA include conflict minerals reporting requirements, customs procedures and chemical management regimes.

TTIP, launched in June 2013, is one of the most important and economically influential free trade agreements currently under negotiation. If implemented, the agreement is expected to create additional $65 billion and $86 billion GDP to the US and the EU respectively.

It is argued that because the implementing tariff rate in the EU and US on average is already quite low, harmonizing regulatory differences rather than eliminating tariffs will be the key to the TTIP negotiation.* However, the very different and rigid legislative procedures in the EU and US may complicate the negotiation on regulatory coherence. Particularly, both the EU and US may want to convince the other side that their current regulations/standards are the better ones. And the political implication will be bad if trade negotiators of either side leave the impression domestically that the TTIP would lower down their current standards for sensitive topics such as “product safety” and “environmental protection” .  

Note*: as one of the few exceptions, the tariff rates for T&A are still relatively high: 6.6% for textiles and 11.5% for apparel in the EU as well as 7.9% for textiles and 11.6% for apparel in the US according to the World Trade Organization.

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by Sheng Lu

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International Trade and Global Supply Chain

Questions to think about:

Why supply chain matters in the 21st century global economy?

What benefits a global supply chain can bring to us?

 What unique risks are involved in a global supply chain?

What role the government and policies can play in facilitating the global supply chain?

Are you prepared to embrace the concept of “made in the world”?

Despite growth of production, no sign of jobs recovery in the US textile and apparel manufacturing sector

According to the latest World Manufacturing Production Quarterly Report released by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), for the first time over the past few years, production of wearing apparel enjoyed a positive growth of 3.9% in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012 in the United States. This statistics seem to support the argument that “made in USA” is making a coming back when “made in Asia” is losing cost advantages. A Just-style report quotes that “A growing number of US apparel manufacturers, government officials and industry leaders have been working on initiatives to increase domestic production. As an example, Wal-Mart has recently made a commitment to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next ten years.”

However, statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the employment level in the US textile and apparel manufacturing sector continues declining in 2013 despite the positive growth of industry output. Specifically, total employment in the US textile mills (NAICS 313), US textile product mills (NAICS 314) and US apparel manufacturing (NAICS 315) sectors were 2.7%, 3.1% and 5.4% less in November 2013 respectively compared to the average level in 2012 after seasonal adjustment.

The mixed pattern imply the changing nature of textile and apparel manufacturing in the United States. Particularly, it is important to realize that the industry is NOT going back to the old days, but rather the resurgence of “made in USA” may be the result of a new round of capitalization in the industry, which is manifested by a growing number of modern-looking plants with “floors empty of people”.   

by Sheng Lu

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