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Apparel Orgs Waste No Time Getting on USTR Lighthizer’s Agenda About NAFTA

After much ado about a couple things, Robert Lighthizer was sworn in as the U.S. Trade Representative Monday.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence said Lighthizer will keep President Trump’s promise to put America First.

“For the past 30 years, Robert has represented the American businesses that are the beating heart of our economy as a trade litigator,” Pence said, according to the White House blog’s recap of the swearing in. “From manufacturing to agriculture, high-tech to financial services, Robert Lighthizer has distinguished himself as a tireless defender of America’s workers and America’s future, and now he’ll be doing it for the United States of America.”

Lighthizer appears ready to get on board with the role—and with Trump’s vision.

“I believe that when all the dust of partisan vitriol has settled and serious people provide thoughtful analysis, the Trump administration will be ranked as one of the greatest in American history,” Lighthizer said.

First up on Lighthizer’s agenda could likely be NAFTA.

In a joint letter sent Tuesday by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, the organizations at once congratulated the new USTR rep and politely asked him to get to work on settling trade.

For one, they want him to see that the trade deal with Canada and Mexico carries on.

“NAFTA directly supports hundreds of thousands of U.S. textile, apparel and footwear jobs, and many millions more indirectly in important agriculture, service, logistics, manufacturing and retailer operations in all 50 states,” the letter noted. “At the same time, by providing duty elimination for goods, NAFTA gives companies and consumers access to affordable articles and inputs. Companies take advantage of these lower import costs by hiring more U.S. workers, investing more in their products or communities, or passing savings along to consumers in the form of lower prices.”

The apparel organizations agreed that the 23-year-old trade deal could use some updating, perhaps in the areas of smarter, more streamlined customs enforcement and providing for trade in the digital economy, but they want to be sure any renegotiation will “do no harm” to today’s “successful” supply chains.

Any changes made to NAFTA, the orgs said, should afford “ample transition” to allow companies to remain compliant as they work to transition to potential new rules.