The Textile and Apparel Alliance for the TPP (TAAT) expressed deep appreciation to the 76 U.S. Representatives who sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Ron Kirk stressing the need for job-creating textile rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

Led by Reps. Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Kissell (D-N.C.), the signatories — many from Cotton Belt states — pledged to work with USTR to ensure a positive outcome for the textile and apparel chapter in the negotiations.

In a news release, TAAT spokesman and National Council of Textile Organizations President Cass Johnson said, "Members of Congress have sent a strong message that they want textile rules in the TPP agreement that support U.S. jobs, develop new export markets, increase opportunities for private investment and entrepreneurship, and reinforce strong trade ties with existing FTA partners."

The TAAT coalition was formed in February after Vietnam, a TPP participant, proposed country-of-origin rules for textiles and apparel that are far weaker than those in current US free trade agreements (FTAs) and preference programs.

The release stated that if adopted, the weak rules would allow Vietnam's state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to export textiles and apparel made from subsidized inputs produced by China's massive textile SOEs duty free to other TPP countries.

The competitive advantage gained by Vietnam's SOEs would shift business to them at the expense of privately-owned and financed textile and apparel producers in the United States and elsewhere in the NAFTA, CAFTA and AGOA trade blocs, thereby harming potential for new textile and apparel export markets for U.S. producers and those of FTA partners.

Moreover, China, the largest textile and apparel exporter in the world and a country not participating in the TPP, would gain substantial new access to the U.S. market without having to make trade concessions in return.

The TAAT coalition is supporting rules proposed by the U.S. government which build on the free trade agreements that have been negotiated over the past 25 years. These include the "yarn forward" rule of origin, responsible market access provisions, and strong customs rules and enforcement. A yarn-forward rule of origin means that all yarn, fabric, and assembly production stages must be done in a TPP country for a textile or apparel product to be eligible for duty-free treatment, unless an exception applies.

The U.S. government has also insisted that the TPP agreement ensure "that state-owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies and do not distort competition in ways that put U.S. companies and workers at a disadvantage."

Johnson noted that the TPP will be the most significant U.S. trade agreement since the negotiation of China's 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization, if approved by Congress. In part, this is because the agreement is a 'plug and play' where other countries that wish to negotiate an FTA with the U.S. will plug into the agreement and agree to its existing rules.