Blog: Leonie BarriePresident Obama's textile stance?

Leonie Barrie | 22 January 2009

Since his inauguration on Tuesday, President Obama has shown that he’s keen to get stuck in to the hundreds of urgent items on his agenda. But textiles certainly isn’t one of them.

As Mike Flanagan pointed out in his analysis of the new Administration’s priorities, trade doesn’t seem to be getting a look in right now – let alone the likelihood of a protectionist stance against foreign clothing suppliers like China. Which of course is good news for US importers and retailers placing orders in China who need as much predictability as possible when it comes to their sourcing decisions.

Of course there’s no certainty that imposing restrictions on imports won’t happen eventually, but in the short term at least there seems to be a consensus of opinion that the economy will be the centre of attention.

Speaking to a number of apparel industry executives in the course of putting together a management briefing on industry issues to watch in 2009, the view seems to be that the new government is going to work on the broader economic issues affecting the US first.

Julie Hughes, senior vice president of USA-ITA (the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel) says: “The conventional wisdom in the US right now is that the Obama Administration will not take any action for special textile protection for at least their first six months in office.”

Kevin Burke, president of The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) believes that when the Obama Administration begins to focus on trade, “it will likely focus first on enforcement of current trade agreements before looking at creating new trade agreements.”   

Hughes also notes that “while there is certainly the potential for the textile industry – or for specific companies – to file trade cases to begin anti-dumping or countervailing duty or China product-specific investigations, those close to the textile industry suggest that the high legal fees remain a deterrent to the filing of cases.” 

And Mike Flanagan adds that the threat of protectionism “is nothing like the big deal many people make it out to be.”

Relations with China matter more to the US trade policymakers than their domestic textile lobbies, he believes, noting: “There are just about as many votes wanting more sales of Boeings or Airbuses to China as there are wanting textile jobs to be protected in the Carolinas.”


COMMENT: Textile trade bans unlikely under President Obama


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