• President Trump has said he will work to "fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones".
  • In his maiden Union Address, he vowed to invest further in jobs, in particular, training and workforce development.
  • US apparel importers have welcomed the commitment to developing new trading relationships.
President Donald Trump delivered his maiden speech to Congress yesterday (30 January)

President Donald Trump delivered his maiden speech to Congress yesterday (30 January)

A group representing US apparel and footwear brands and importers has welcomed President Donald Trump's call during his State of the Union Address to improve trading relationships and training opportunities for American jobs.

Delivering his maiden speech to Congress yesterday (30 January), Trump revisited his accomplishments over his first year in office and outlined a number of proposals he wants to consider over the coming year.

On trade, he said America had finally turned the page on decades of unfair deals that "sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation's wealth".

He told the audience: "From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal. We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules."

American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) president and CEO, Rick Helfenbein, welcomed the commitment by the President to developing new trading relationships that will reduce costs and open new markets to American products.

Yet he cautioned: "While it is appropriate to modernise and regularly re-visit our current trading relationships, we think it is counter-intuitive to threaten our current partners with US withdrawal from agreements. We encourage the Administration to negotiate agreements that encourage trade, promote American workers and American businesses, and help hardworking American families."

Since being signed into office, Trump has withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, and has repeatedly threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if a new one can't be struck. Talks are still ongoing and after the sixth round of negotiations, which ended this week, the US has once again expressed concerns over the slow progress of the talks.

NAFTA talks must move much faster

Helfenbein also pointed to Trump's decision to "reform prisons", which he said he hoped would not be funded by diverting government contracts to Federal Prison Industries. "This would directly result in the loss of American apparel and textile manufacturing jobs," he added.

Over the last 12 months, Trump told his audience 2.4m new jobs have been created, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing.

The President vowed to invest further in jobs, in particular, training and workforce development. "Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realise their full potential. And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave."

Helfenbein said the AAFA "stands ready to work with the Administration and Congress on these issues in the year ahead, and to provide the input of this $384bn industry representing nearly 4m American workers".