Friday's vote by the US House of Representatives to extend preferential trade treatment enjoyed by Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru has met with dismay from the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI).

In a statement, Charles A Hayes, Guilford Mills Inc, president of ATMI), expressed his concern that the Andean Trade Expansion Bill would be extremely damaging to the US textile industry. He urged the Senate to reject the bill and to pass a straightforward extension of the current Andean Trade Preference Act, without permitting massive amounts of new apparel imports made of foreign fabric and yarn to enter the US free of duties.
"If this bill is enacted into law, it would cost the US textile industry billions of dollars in lost production, and it will cost thousands more US textile workers their jobs. The country as a whole will also bear the cost because of the negative impact this will have on the US textile industry complex, which includes our suppliers in the cotton, wool and manmade fibre industries and which contributes $75 billion annually to the nation's economy."

The legislation, which must still be considered by the Senate, would provide new duty-free treatment to some apparel products from the Andean countries.

Mr Hayes said that the apparel would not need to be made of US yarn or fabric.  "It does not even require that all of the assembly operations be done in the Andean countries, thus opening the door for the textile and apparel giants of Asia to share in the benefits of this legislation. It also opens a new avenue for more illegal imports to enter the US, making Asian smuggling and trans-shipments that much harder to stop.

"Finally, and completely unrelated to the Andean region, the bill doubles the amount of African apparel imports containing non-US fabric that will be allowed to enter the US duty-free. 

"This is not an economic partnership, this is a unilateral giveaway of the US market at the expense of US textile jobs."