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AAFA Seeks Protection for Legwear Imports and Exports Under TPP

As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks move into the final stages, some have cited concerns that legwear production in TPP countries could suffer if the U.S. doesn’t afford viable rules of origin under the agreement.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last week, the American Apparel & Footwear Association’s (AAFA) Legwear Committee asked that legwear imports and exports be supported through TPP, and the main area of unease is the Rule of Origin (ROO) that will be required for legwear products to qualify for duty free benefits.

The TPP is a proposed trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Today’s supply chains are considerably diversified, with yarns and fibers sourced from all over the world and used in U.S. domestic and international production in order to gain access to inputs that are not available in many countries–including those in the TPP region–and to find quality that is often unmatched in other locales.

According to the letter, the apparel and textile industry’s production would excel given a greater ability to source inputs globally.

“A ROO that relies on a knit-to-shape provision for legwear would increase actual production and employment in TPP countries, by stipulating that all inputs could be globally sourced but that production from the knit to shape process forward must take place in the TPP region. In this way, the many U.S. legwear companies that already produce both domestically and internationally could reap the benefits of the TPP by increasing their production in the TPP region, without having to move production to non-TPP regions in order to keep up with international competitors,” the letter noted.

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Steve Lamar, AAFA executive vice president said, “Our Legwear members have very diverse supply chains. We are looking for a final ROO to be flexible enough to accommodate these supply chains that our members rely upon to remain competitive. Access to global suppliers and global customers is critical for the 21st century US legwear company.” He added, “Moreover we need to make sure the TPP doesn’t move backwards on key areas, such as the gimped yarn exception, that have been included in all previous FTAs.”

AAFA said a knit-to-shape rule of origin would preserve existing domestic jobs and give U.S. manufacturers a fair shot at exporting their goods to other TPP countries.

“We want to make sure that Legwear issues not be an afterthought but be addressed in a manner that accommodates the distinctive needs of the Legwear industry,” Lamar said.