The conclusion of the seventh round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has prompted a group of US apparel and retail industry stakeholders to call for the inclusion of a market-opening apparel agreement as part of the pact.

The TPP talks, which ended in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Friday (24 June) made "progress" on a number of issues according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, including intellectual property, transparency, telecommunications, customs and the environment.

But groups representing American retailers, apparel brands, manufacturers and importers believe apparel rules of origin are a key element in the overall success of the accord - and that new trade and investment opportunities will be limited without a solid agreement on apparel.

They are now urging negotiators to "adopt rules of origin, meaningful market access, and regulatory harmonization that reflect and accommodate today's global value chains."

The coalition includes the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Outdoor Industry Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Association of Importers of Textile and Apparel.

"Our member companies design, market, and retail products manufactured in and imported to the United States, as well as market and retail products throughout the TPP partner countries," they said in a position paper released to TPP negotiators and stakeholders.

"We support the negotiation of a 21st century TPP agreement, which offers a potential growth platform for economic integration, trade and investment that could provide tremendous new opportunities for our members to buy and sell goods and services and to sustain and grow well-paying US jobs and provide high value add for the US and TPP economies."

But they also want negotiators to apply the traditional data-driven approach used for all other products to textiles and apparel in the TPP - along with seven "basic priorities" they believe the deal should include.

  • Integrate textile and apparel products into the market access negotiations similar to any other product: with no separate chapter or separate provisions. This includes no separate safeguard process for textile and apparel products, and no separate customs enforcement measures. There is no longer a need for different apparel customs enforcement provisions.
  • Liberalise and simplify the rules of origin so that any restrictive rules are applied only to individual products when data show it is necessary and appropriate. At a minimum, these liberalised and simplified rules should:
  1. Embrace a new approach in crafting flexible product-specific rules for apparel in the TPP negotiations;
  2. Harmonise the rules of origin among all TPP countries to accept this new approach for the rules of origin, including those that currently have FTAs with the United States;
  3. Guarantee "cumulation" among all TPP partner countries to facilitate regional integration;
  4. Establish a transparent and commercially meaningful "commercial availability" [short supply] process; and
  5. Create a process to allow "cumulation" with other countries that have FTAs with all TPP countries.
  • Implement immediate and reciprocal duty-free treatment for all qualifying products.
  • Harmonise and streamline customs procedures among all TPP countries and incorporate account-based processing to facilitate the flow of goods among parties to the agreement.
  • Harmonise the rules and regulations - such as product safety and labelling - among all TPP countries, including those that currently have FTAs with the United States.
  • Strengthen intellectual property rights (IPR) protections among all TPP countries to better enable American apparel brands, manufacturers and retailers to protect their brands from counterfeiters and trademark violators.
  • Create a "living" agreement that welcomes additional parties and can evolve to address new textile and apparel issues as they arise.

Nine Pacific Rim nations are formally involved in the multi-lateral trade talks, including the US, Vietnam Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Peru.