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US Textile Associations to Merge for Larger Voice on Trade Policy

Marking further consolidation of the organizations that represent the U.S. textile industry, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and the American Fiber Manufacturers (AFMA) have agreed to merge, effective April 1.

The combined organization will still carry the NCTO moniker and its president and CEO, Auggie Tantillo, will continue in that role heading the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the U.S. textile industry.

“The NCTO merger with AFMA strengthens the U.S. textile industry’s ability to influence federal policy,” NCTO chairman William V. “Bill” McCrary Jr., who is also chairman and CEO of William Barnet & Son in Spartanburg, S.C., said. “It brings new members and financial resources to NCTO and extends the organization’s political reach. It also cements NCTO’s status as the voice of every facet of the U.S. textile production chain, a fact that will help NCTO to more effectively influence federal policies that affect U.S. textile investment, production and workers.”

In 2013, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coal and the National Textile Association (NTA) merged with NCTO to form a larger association to give a more unified and stronger voice in Washington. At the time, the NTA was the oldest textile trade association in the U.S.

In 2004, the leaders of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and the American Yarn Spinners Association launched NCTO after a decade of deep retraction of the domestic industry and a flood of imports changed the sourcing landscape. AFMA is an Arlington, Va.-based trade association representing U.S. companies that manufacture synthetic and cellulosic fibers.

The merger comes at what could be a critical time for the U.S. textile industry, which has undergone a resurgence in recent years under a Made in America movement mainly driven by rising costs in China, a need for closer-to-market and quick response production and automation technology that has allowed for reduced labor costs in the U.S.

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Much of those gains and a key supply chain for yarn suppliers in particular are the North American Free Trade Agreement and Central American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA is now being renegotiated under the insistence of President Trump, and its existence could be threatened, while Trump’s overall decrying of free trade pacts could derail CAFTA, as well.

Speaking at a conference in November, Tantillo stressed that through NAFTA and CAFTA, the U.S. textile industry partners with manufacturers in Mexico and Central America to supply yarn and fabrics.

“So, we want to see NAFTA continue and have expressed that vehemently to the Trump administration, and we’re glad to see that he has morphed his position from ‘rip it up’ to “let’s modernize it, let’s improve it,’” Tantillo said. “We do support modernization because we do think there are specific details within NAFTA that are disadvantageous to us as U.S. manufacturers.”

According to NCTO, U.S. employment in the textile supply chain was 550,500 in 2017, down from 565,000 in 2016. The value of shipments for U.S. textiles and apparel was $77.9 billion last year, up from $74.4 billion in 2016 and a 16 percent increase since 2009.

Exports of fabric and yarn increased 6.7% in January compared to December and were up 4.8% year-to-year to reach $960 million.

Four councils – Fiber, Yarn, Fabric & Home Furnishings, and Industry Support comprise NCTO’s leadership structure. Each represents a major sector of the U.S. supply chain and elects its own officers who make up NCTO’s board of directors.

“AFMA’s merger with NCTO will allow U.S. fiber producers to keep the sector’s seat at the federal policy table,” AFMA chairman Mark Ruday, senior vice president of DAK Americas in Charlotte, N.C., said. “As a multi-billion industry with tens of thousands of employees, it is critical that the U.S. man-made fiber sector stay engaged in Washington.”