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Op-Ed: Apparel Associations go to Bat for Maintaining Tariff Preference Levels in NAFTA


Today, the NAFTA supply chain is a success story—with significant production and sales in all three countries that create jobs and offer consumers better products at better prices.

The trade agreement remains one of the most important—and most used—Free Trade Agreements for textile and apparel companies as well as retailers and brands. The Western Hemisphere supply chain is an essential element in global sourcing today. And we have forged successful partnerships over the past 20-plus years that bring together top performers in all three countries.

This week, our thoughts are with colleagues in Mexico as they deal with devastating earthquakes. The outpouring of sympathy and assistance, reflects the close ties and long-standing friendship between the United States and Mexico. And in the last few weeks, as we’ve been worried about colleagues in Houston, the Caribbean and Florida, our North American Free Trade Agreement partners have been among the first to offer assistance.

Industry associations representing apparel brands, retailers, and manufacturers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together this week with a joint statement to the negotiators who are meeting in Ottawa for the third round of talks to update NAFTA. Our message is that the negotiators need to support a modernized NAFTA that will lead to more job creation and commercial opportunities within—and among—our three countries.

What does this mean?

NAFTA should remain permanent to give companies the predictability to continue to make long-term investments in sourcing and in manufacturing. It also means NAFTA needs to maintain the balance of innovative flexibilities that exist today to support the fashion industry. By definition, the fashion industry needs flexibility–today’s fashion trends develop with lightning speed and NAFTA allows companies to respond immediately. Proposals to make NAFTA more restrictive would disrupt the supply chain that brings us together.

That is why 10 associations came together to support this message–and to specifically say that the existing Tariff Preference Levels (TPLs) are an essential flexibility that maximizes the ability to use North American content in our members’ global supply chains. We tell the negotiators, “Retaining, at a minimum, the size and scope of the TPLs is essential to ensuring that these supply chains, and the North American jobs they support, are not harmed.”

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We ask for support from the Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. negotiators to update NAFTA in a way that will continue the current trade and opportunities for businesses, workers and consumers in all three of our countries.