Textile World | February 1, 2011
Textile groups oppose KORUS FTA
Five organizations representing interests of the U.S. textile industry have sent a letter to members of Congress urging defeat of the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), and a campaign has begun to include the voices of the wider community in a grassroots expression of opposition to the treaty.
Last month, officers of the American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA), American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), National Textile Association (NTA) and U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI) signed the letter, which charges that the agreement "is seriously flawed and will result in the continued outsourcing of valuable textile, apparel and other manufacturing jobs."
Negotiations between the United States and South Korea concluded in December 2010, and the final language included in the pact is slated for release to the public this month. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on KORUS as well as the pending Panama and Colombia free trade agreements (FTAs), and all three treaties are expected to be debated and voted on by both houses of Congress soon.
According to the Obama administration, the agreement is expected to boost U.S. exports by $10 billion to $11 billion and support 70,000 U.S. jobs. While U.S. auto makers have been singled out among the beneficiaries of the pact, the manufacturing sector as a whole purportedly stands to benefit from the elimination of tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer products within five years of ratification of the agreement. Customs enforcement and rules of origin — points that have been of major concern to the U.S. textile industry — are also addressed. However, according to the letter, specific fixes requested by the industry have not been addressed. Industry concerns center around loopholes in enforcement provisions that favor China, a tariff schedule that favors Korean exporters over U.S. exporters and the exclusion of textile components under rules-of-origin provisions that give an advantage to non-signatory nations such as China.
The letter also disputes the job creation claims by the administration, citing an Economic Policy Institute analysis that estimates 159,000 U.S. jobs will be lost if KORUS in its current form is enacted — with 9,300 to 12,300 of those jobs attributed directly to the textile industry and a total of 40,000 jobs both directly and indirectly related to textile and apparel activities.
In an effort to gain grassroots textile industry support for the defeat of KORUS, NCTO has organized a petition campaign to gather signatures from individuals opposed to the pact. More information is available at www.ncto.org.