David Hastings, chairman of Mount Vernon Mills, urged the House Ways & Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Trade to keep in mind that the United States’ manufacturing sector is hurting badly and not to take action that could potentially cause further job losses in this country.
Testifying on behalf of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), Hastings specifically urged the Subcommittee that as it reviews different options regarding preference programs – not to consider a proposal to extend duty free status to apparel imports from Bangladesh and Cambodia as a part of broad trade preference reform.
Hastings said, for example, if this Committee grants these large competitive countries with duty-free status, Mount Vernon’s Trion facility, and many others, will be forced to close.
“And, in the case of Trion, the U.S. military will lose one of the country’s largest producers of combat fabric for our soldiers,” he noted.
Hastings said of the 55 countries in the current trade preference and free trade areas, not a single country or NGO support is granting any sort of preference to these two countries.
“In fact, not one country has asked for broad trade preference reform for textiles,” he said.
Hastings testified that 42 textile and apparel associations from 28 countries in Africa and the Western Hemisphere, including Least Developed Countries such as Haiti, asked him to present to the Committee a letter stressing strong opposition to any such effort.
With regard to trade preferences, Hastings offered three solutions: 1) Congress must pass an Andean trade preference extension immediately; 2) take action against China; and 3) the U.S. government should do more to support manufacturing.
“I also do not think we should abandon our free trade and preference program partners in order to reward countries that barely pay their workers or engage in predatory and illegal subsidy schemes,” Hastings stated. “Instead, I believe that we should be focusing our efforts on ensuring a prosperous future for the U.S. worker, as well as the millions of workers in the preference and free trade areas.”