Textile manufacturers from the US have called on support from their counterparts in Mexico and Central America to seek a strong "yarn forward" rule of origin in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - even though they are not involved in the discussions.

The groups, which included trade associations and manufacturers, last week met with congressional leaders to convey their concerns on textile rules in the TPP.

In particular, they say it is "critically important" that TPP does not damage the western hemisphere textile supply chain which has, in turn, been boosted by the NAFTA and DR-CAFTA trade agreements.

Discussions focused on the need for a strong "yarn forward" rule of origin and robust customs enforcement - which have been a feature of previous US trade pacts. The groups also want to see "reasonable" tariff phase-outs for sensitive products in TPP.

"Mexico is a key textile and apparel producer in the western hemisphere and is a critical part of the supply chain for many American textile and apparel companies," said Nora Ambriz, executive director of Canaintex, which represents the textile value chain in Mexico.

"Ninety-six percent of Mexican apparel exports are shipped to the US each year and Mexico is the leading export destination for US textiles and apparel."

"It is imperative that US trade policy continues to foster the economic growth seen under these agreements by building on the successful rules [the NAFTA and CAFTA-DR free trade agreements] contain," added Jay Self, chairman of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and president and CEO of Greenwood Mills.

Also lending its support was CECATEC-RD, which integrates the associations and chambers of the apparel and textile sector in Central America and Dominican Republic.

The TTP is currently being discussed by 12 countries including the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam - the last of which is the second-largest apparel supplier to the US after China. 

For textiles specifically, the US says it is seeking the elimination of tariffs on textile and apparel exports to the 11 TPP countries, as well as a yarn-forward rule of origin which would require products to be made using only US or other TPP country yarns and fabrics in order to qualify for TPP benefits.

It is also trying to secure a short supply list of fabrics, yarns and fibres not commercially available in TPP countries, which would be exempt from this requirement.

But campaigners representing US brands, retailers and importers want the freedom to source inputs from the best suppliers, regardless of whether textiles from the US or partner countries are used.