The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) has lent its support to a potential trade agreement between the US and Japan – the third-largest consumer market in the world, as well as an important sourcing destination for high-quality textiles.

The group's president Julia Hughes testified at a public hearing on the negotiating objectives for a US-Japan Trade Agreement at the US International Trade Commission yesterday (10 December).

During her speech, Hughes called for the elimination of the very high import duties on fashion products; a flexible, simplified, 21st-century Rule of Origin for apparel; harmonised and streamlined customs procedures; and, harmonised rules and regulations governing issues like product safety and labeling.

"As American fashion brands and retailers – and all companies in the United States – are seeking opportunities to reach new consumers, grow their businesses, and create jobs in the United States, it's important to make it easier to trade and do business with lucrative, growing markets like Japan," she said.

"An effective, 21st century US-Japan Trade Agreement would be flexible and would recognise the commercial reality that companies rely on global value chains to produce and sell products. Such an agreement would provide the United States with the best possible economic benefits for US companies, US workers, and US consumers."

Earlier this year, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that the Trump Administration intends to negotiate three separate trade agreements with Japan, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the time, Lighthizer said the US will continue to expand trade and investment by negotiating trade agreements with Japan, the EU, and the United Kingdom. He added the Trump Administration is committed to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.

Negotiations are expected to begin no earlier than 14 January 2019 with the EU and Japan.