Blog: Michelle RussellIndustry welcoming move to renegotiate NAFTA

Michelle Russell | 23 May 2017

The US textile industry has welcomed President Donald Trump's decision to renegotiate NAFTA, saying it is in America's national interest to modernise the trade agreement.

Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says the negotiations will seek to support higher-paying jobs in the US and grow the country's economy by improving opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico.

A group of US retail and apparel industry associations, however, is urging the newly appointed Lighthizer to take a cautious approach to renegotiating NAFTA and ensure it does no harm to existing supply chains.

Also in the US, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has again made its opposition to the proposed border adjustment tax clear, calling on Congress to instead update the existing federal income tax system through comprehensive reform.

Meanwhile, as international apparel brands and retailers eye Ethiopia's potential as a global sourcing hub, research is also underway to look at the best ways to ensure the new jobs created empower women workers.

24 April marked the anniversary of the horrific collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the years since, the incident has sparked a worldwide movement called Fashion Revolution, whose mission is to unite people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed.

Now, talks are underway between global unions and a number of signatories of the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which was set up in the aftermath of Rana Plaza, over a possible continuation of the agreement, or the formation of a new one, with a potential launch expected as early as next month.

Cambodia's apparel industry – of critical importance to its national economy – is struggling to retain experienced workers, which means the sector is facing a chronic skills shortage. The industry is experiencing a massive 44% annual labour turnover, meaning nearly half of its workforce quit jobs every year, an industry expert notes, assessing data from a survey earlier this year.

An agreement was signed at the Human Rights and Garment Conference in the Hague, the Netherlands, last week, for two initiatives aimed at improving working conditions in the global garment industry. The collaboration has three main goals in mind: coordinating factory assessments; streamlining factory capacity building and improvement processes; and unlocking learning and cooperation opportunities for brand partners.

The European Union (EU), meanwhile, has reinstated Sri Lanka's GSP+ duty-free trade concession, in a move that mainly benefits the country's leading garment export industry.

What's wrong with retail these days? Simply put, long-term trends have conspired with relatively recent market developments to upset the retail apparel cart. Population growth has slowed, as has GDP, while at the same time, consumers have so many more products upon which to spend their money.

A number of new smart fibre and fabric concepts were on show alongside eco-innovations for more sustainable clothing and footwear at the recent Texprocess and Techtextil trade shows in Frankfurt, Germany. Electro-osmotic membranes, eco-efficient textiles and recycled yarns were among the highlights.

In other news, Gap Inc is “firing on one cylinder”, analysts say, as its first-quarter is driven by Old Navy; a project to raise the height of New Jersey's Bayonne Bridge could lower apparel costs; Ralph Lauren names Patrice Louvet CEO as it moves to a loss; Shandong Ruyi is to open its first North America facility; and, fourth quarter results continued to pour in.

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