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US Textiles Sector Outlines Priorities for Biden

National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) president and CEO Kim Glas issued an extensive agenda on Thursday that the domestic textile industry urges President-elect Joe Biden’s administration and a new Congress to address to bolster the U.S. manufacturing sector.

“The U.S. textile industry looks forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team and his administration to provide input on key policies outlined in the campaign to prioritize investing in American manufacturing and its workforce, onshoring critical supply chains, and cracking down on the predatory trade practices that have harmed the manufacturing sector and U.S. jobs,” Glas said. “We agree with the President-elect that we must not revert to status quo trade policies that have undermined our nation’s resilience and exacerbated income inequality by impacting the manufacturing sector and promoting a race to the bottom that have especially hurt the nearly two-thirds of the American workforce without college degrees.”

She said as domestic manufacturers, the U.S. textile industry fully supports Biden’s campaign pledge to strengthen “Buy American” rules and invest in government purchases of U.S.-made products. Glas said it is “imperative that we strengthen the domestic personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain to achieve a long-term goal of ending our over-reliance on China and begin onshoring the production of critical medical textiles.”

Glas told Sourcing Journal that she believes the issues surrounding PPE will be a “high priority” for the administration.

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“When President-elect Biden was a candidate, part of his core economic plan was around strengthening the domestic supply chain on essential products,” she said in a phone interview. “I absolutely believe that this is going to be one of his top priorities and since our industry has been on the front lines in trying to address some of the PPE crisis that our health care workers have faced, I believe that there’s a strong roadmap on how to do it to ensure that we see investment here in America and for the long term.”

She wouldn’t specify whether NCTO has had any direct contact with the transition team, but said she and the organization look forward to working with Biden and his team to “strengthen and maintain these supply chains, which is a paramount national and healthcare security issue.”

“The Covid-19 crisis has made clear to Democrats and Republicans alike that our past trade policies have left the United States too reliant on imports of essential goods,” Glas said. “Our national trade and economic agenda must put American manufacturing workers at the center. President-elect Biden has committed to taking on China and other countries that utilize predatory trade and economic tactics that have hurt domestic manufacturers and we welcome that call.”

Glas laid out four immediate steps the Biden administration can take in the first months in office to help boost investment in the U.S. textile industry and onshore critical PPE supply chains.

The first is to expand investment in U.S.-made PPE. NCTO noted that the Berry Amendment, a domestic procurement law that governs purchases by the Defense Department, has been an essential tool of national security policy to ensure military personnel are wearing 100 percent Made-in-America product and that the U.S. is not relying on foreign supply chains from China and elsewhere to supply critical military materials.

“Regrettably, our over-reliance on China for these essential products failed to meet our needs during a time of crisis,” Glas said. “That can never happen again. We must onshore and diversify these critical supply chains moving forward.”

She called for adoption of The American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act, which expands the Berry Amendment to all federal purchases of PPE. In addition, NCTO urged the federal government to deploy long-term federal contracts for PPE to spur investment and create jobs in the U.S., a key element of separate pending bipartisan legislation named the Make PPE in America Act. The organization believes the federal government should use tax incentives to help promote the domestic manufacturing industrial base and U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Secondly, to help ensure industry is meeting federal government needs and priorities, NCTO said it is critical that the U.S. textile industry and PPE producers have a high level of communication and coordination with key officials across all the government agencies procuring medical PPE.

“Establishing a key point person and team is critical to ensure the necessary collaboration to help industry and government respond quickly and effectively to national, state and local PPE needs,” Glas said. “A high-level team comprised of experts committed to U.S. manufacturing is vitally important in advancing both short-term needs and long-term supply chain efforts.”

NCTO said it is prepared to help develop a “streamlined, high-level coordination structure that ensures that the contracting process yields timely acquisition of quality U.S.-made PPE and other medical items.”

NCTO also called for continued support of tariffs and strong trade Enforcement. Glas reiterated what she told Sourcing Journal regarding an interview Wednesday in the New York Times in which Biden pledged to continue aggressive trade enforcement actions against China and to work long-term with international coalitions to comprehensively address systemic predatory trade practices.

“For far too long, our industry, like so many others in the manufacturing sector, has been hindered by predatory trade practices,” Glas said. “The U.S. textile industry is highly automated and is proud to compete with anyone in the world on a level and fair playing field. But the rules of the road are not always abided by or fair and, regrettably, the U.S. textile industry has far too often faced that sobering reality.”

She said that’s why aggressive enforcement actions, including continuing punitive tariffs on finished products, is critical to getting the Chinese to address “systemic unfair trade advantages,” such as government subsidies, state-owned enterprises, forced labor practices, weak environmental standards, intellectual property theft and currency manipulation that non-market economies use to manipulate global markets and hurt U.S. producers.

“Punitive tariffs coupled with other enforcement mechanisms are also necessary to increase negotiating leverage to address these larger systemic issues,” she said.

Lastly, NCTO urged Biden and Congress to provide targeted stimulus to U.S. manufacturers and workers. Glas said the unprecedented reduction in consumer demand since the onset of Covid-19 has significantly hurt the U.S. textile industry and other key manufacturing sectors of the economy and that it was critical that the textile industry and other impacted manufacturing sectors and their workforce have access to critical support like the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Additionally, this program should be expanded to ensure more medium-sized manufacturers that have made PPE have the opportunity to participate,” Glas added. “A robust manufacturing stimulus will help stabilize the industry and lead to critical domestic job growth in this important sector and we urge Congress and the administration to come together to implement a plan as soon as possible.”

Glas said she feels the Biden administration will be supportive of the traditional domestic textile industry, as well.

“Whoever has been in the presidency, our industry has interfaced with Republicans and Democrats,” she told Sourcing Journal. “It’s such an important industry that’s gotten a lot more recognition in the last year because of the role it played with respect to PPE, but I absolutely believe we are poised to work with the Biden administration to make sure that they understand some of the critical issues affecting our industry and what our recommendation are.”