Textile and Apparel Sector in the 2016 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda

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In the recently released 2016 President’s Trade Agenda, the textile and apparel (T&A) sector was mentioned four times (up from only once in 2015*):

1.Trade enforcement

“THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION has a record of trade enforcement victories that have helped to level the playing field for American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers. In 2016, we will continue to aggressively pursue a robust trade enforcement agenda, including by using new and stronger tools under the bipartisan Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 to hold our trading partners accountable.

Ongoing disputes include challenges to:

  • China’s far-reaching export subsidy program extending across sectors and dozens of sub-sectors, including textiles, industrial and agricultural products.”

2.Trade preference programs

“Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) pro­gram, which supports nearly $900 million in garment imports from Haiti, is an essen­tial support for Haiti’s long-term economic growth and industrial development. HOPE supports thousands of jobs in Haiti’s textile and gar­ment sectors, while providing important pro­tections to workers. Early extension of this program will provide the necessary stability and continuity for companies to continue in­vesting in Haiti’s future.”

3.Benefits of trade to the American people

“More recent trends are similar, with families steadily gaining purchasing power as the price of traded goods, such as smart phones, apparel, and toys, falls. While all households benefit, the gains from trade have predominantly benefited lower-income Americans, who spend a greater portion of their incomes on highly-traded staples like food, shoes, and clothing.”

4.Trade and labor

Our engagement has produced an Imple­mentation Plan Related to Working and Liv­ing Conditions of Workers that is helping to address concerns about workers’ rights and working conditions in Jordan’s garment sec­tor, particularly with respect to foreign work­ers. Jordan has issued new standards for dormitory inspections, submitted new labor legislation to its parliament and hired new labor inspectors. USTR and Department of Labor continue to work with Jordan on the issues under the Plan.

Overall, it seems:1) Reflecting the global nature of the sector, T&A is a topic that involves multiple trading parties for the United States; 2) Economic development and foreign aid are important elements in the U.S. trade policy for T&A. 3) Social responsibility and labor practices in the T&A sector remain a grave concern and need further improvement through international collaborations. 4) The T&A sector is involved in some topics with divisive public opinions, such as the impact of imports.

* Textile and apparel mentioned in the 2015 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda:

Our engagement has produced an Implementation Plan Related to Working and Living Conditions of Workers that is helping to address concerns about workers’ rights and working conditions in Jordan’s garment sector, particularly with respect to foreign workers. Jordan has issued new standards for dormitory inspections, submitted new labor legislation to its parliament and hired new labor inspectors.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

8 thoughts on “Textile and Apparel Sector in the 2016 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda”

  1. I am impressed and satisfied to see that the Textile and Apparel sector was mentioned four times in the President’s 2016 Trade Agenda in comparison to just once in 2015. I believe this means we are headed in the right direction and taking a step forward to get the public more involved in the T&A industry and also more aware of the issues we face as an industry as well as the opportunities we can create. My biggest question in regards to this article has to do with the new standards issued by Jordan. As one can see from the readings, Jordan has addressed concerns about working conditions in their garment sector by issuing new standards for dormitory inspections and submitting new labor legislation to its government as well as hiring new inspectors. How will Jordan’s parliament and garment sector ensure compliance? In other words, what actions will be taken against factories, factory managers, etc if they do not hop on board and follow these new standards? How can the T&A industry ensure the legislation is being followed?

  2. I agree with Theresa above!
    As an international business studies minor, I am very impressed to see President Obama mention the T & A industry 4 times in his agenda! I think it is beneficial that before leaving office, he is helping out domestic industries that directly impact textiles- like farmers and ranchers. Additionally, I think it is positive for the US to continue helping Haiti through the HOPE program. As we previously read in one of our class readings, Haiti’s garment industry is a large part of their economy and their workforce. I think is key for America to help sustain positive long term growth and industrial development. If such growth is sustained, I think Haiti could become a great partner to American clothing companies. I do appreciate the concern that Obama has for Jordan’s garment sector in terms of workers rights, but I feel that this initiative needs to expand to many more countries who face the same issues. Like we extensively studied, Bangladesh is in critical need of newly standardized inspections. Before leaving office in 2017, I would like to see President Obama address worker’s rights in more countries besides Jordan.

  3. I agree with Theresa and Jenna’s reaction to “The President’s Trade Agenda”. In order to improve the trade enforcement agenda, the bipartisan Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 will use new and stronger tools. It is reassuring to know that President Obama takes action is regulating trade enforcement that impacts the Textile and Apparel Industry greatly. However, disputes include China’s far-reaching export subsidy program extending across sectors and dozens of sub-sectors including textiles, industrial and agricultural products. Like we learned in class about implications of globalization, no nation can act alone. More than ever, cooperation and collaboration is a requirement when regulating trade enforcement. When Obama talks about sectors he is referring to the segment that manufactures textiles, industrial and agricultural products, as we also learned as part of our key terms. In addition, with regards to Obama’s action on Jordan’s garment sector, why only Jordan? Working conditions and workers’ rights are an issue globally and something that should be addressed world wide. Jordan is not the only country that has these issues and I would like to see President Obama taking action on working conditions and workers’ rights in general because there really isn’t one country that has this issue. In conclusion, I appreciate the action President Obama has taken with regards to trade and I hope this helps improve the Textile and Apparel Industry overall.

  4. I am extremely happy that the T&A industry was noticed several times during The President’s Trade Agenda. Many times the T&A industry is overlooked in the trading sector and people to pay attention and understand the concerns the industry deals with especially horrible working conditions overseas. But the T&A industry plays a huge portion of the US trading industry. Lower income Americans primarily purchase traded goods because of the lower cost and concern. I was also happy to notice them mention the trade and labor issue. Oversea workers work in awful conditions and need more inspections for their safety. I was happy to see Jordan taking stand and wanting to make sure this practices come into play and help the foreign workers. Overall America has to help the world economy because it benefits them in the long run and we all have to work together to learn about each others cultures and customs.

    1. indeed, it is a positive sign that textile and apparel is mentioned more often than in the past. This once again indicates the close connection between our sector and many critical global agendas today. I hope students can realize that trade is more than just about profit. Done right, trade can also be a solution to many problems.

  5. I am happy that the T&A industry was noticed during The President’s Trade Agreement, similarly to the comments mentioned above I believe that the T&A Industry is sometimes overlooked or taken for granted. Many individuals don’t realize how important this industry is to our nation as well as other nations. In addition, it is important to keep supporting and funding the HOPE program. This program is not only providing the assistance to Haiti, but it’s also creating an important relationship between Haiti and America. This relationship can be helpful in the future, as Haiti’s economy and resources increase/expand. Lastly, it is important to note the success within Jordan for their changes in their own T&A industry. These changes will lead to safer working conditions for their workers, as well as providing a basis for other countries who depend heavily on the T& A Industry, to follow in the future.

  6. It is exciting to see that the T&A industry was mentioned during the president’s trade agreement. The industry is being recognized for its large importance and how much it affects the nation as a whole. The T&A industry is responsible for an abundance of jobs that people would not think are related to the industry. It is also good to see the focus on working conditions overseas.

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