In a letter to the House leadership, the National Retail Federation yesterday said it was outraged and disappointed by a deal hammered out with the textile industry to win passage of presidential Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation.
 
In a letter to House speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, majority leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and majority whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin wrote: "It is particularly galling to find our interests ignored and matters of importance to our industry traded away in order to placate an industry that never supported TPA and has vehemently opposed nearly every major trade initiative."

Mullin noted that NRF was a founding member of USTrade, the coalition formed to lobby in support of TPA, and a member of its steering committee. NRF and its member companies lobbied heavily to help win passage of HR 3005, the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2001.
 
"When some of the largest and oldest retailers in the country, such as Montgomery Ward and Bradlees, have gone bankrupt with the loss of tens of thousands of retail jobs and other retailers are struggling - and when other industries have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs - it is high time for Congress and the federal government to stop treating the textile industry as some special case deserving of extraordinary treatment," Mullin wrote.
 
In order to get the TPA bill over the top in the last minutes of Thursday's 215-214 vote, House leaders promised that the next trade bill to come through the House would ensure that US yarn and fabric used to produce garments in Caribbean and Andean nations must be dyed and finished in the United States. That would amount to a significant change in the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, legislation passed in 2000 and strongly supported by retailers.
 
"This restriction on dyeing and finishing would not only seriously undermine the benefits and objectives of these important trade programs, but also unilaterally overturn the will of an overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress," Mullin wrote, referring lawmakers who supported CPTPA.
 
"This outcome could prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for the textile industry," she added. "With the addition of a new restriction on the ability to dye and finish fabric in the region, US retailers and importers will have little, if any, incentive to source under the program or any Andean initiative that also includes such a restriction. The result will be that less, not more, US fabric will be sold in the Caribbean Basin and Andean regions, which will end up benefiting Asian producers."
 
With a membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalogue, Internet and independent stores, the National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association.