May 7, 2002
Do or DYE Time for Textile Trade Promises
“Next” Trade Bill Comes to House Floor Wednesday Without Textile Language; Will NC Reps. Hayes, Ballenger, Burr, Myrick, Etheridge Get What Was Promised?
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? With the first trade vote since Fast Track coming to the U.S. House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, North Carolina Reps. Robin Hayes, Cass Ballenger, Sue Myrick, Bob Etheridge and Richard Burr will be looking for promised language on textile trade. When these five textile caucus members voted for Fast Track last December, they were promised by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) that a U.S. customs rule change protecting U.S. textile manufacturing would be in the next piece of trade legislation that was brought to the House floor. As of Tuesday morning, Wednesday?s expected resolution on steel tariffs fails to contain any textile language.
“The very economic viability of textile communities is at stake with these trade deals,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch. “Despite the damage these trade deals are causing textile districts, these members switched from “No” to “Yes” on Fast Track to expand NAFTA because they were promised there would be a textile fix on the very next trade bill that came before the Congress. Well, the bill is here and the fix is not.”
The trade vote scheduled for Wednesday, Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson?s (D-La.) resolution H. J. Res. 88, concerns the impact that tariff changes can have on local economies, namely port communities suffering sudden decreases in the volume of steel imports being shipped through local ports. The textile language Speaker Hastert promised would be fixed in the “next” trade vote as would the changes and inconsistencies in the Customs Service evaluation of apparel imports. Hastert promised to eliminate a unilateral change the Customs Service imposed on apparel imports from Andean nations and the Caribbean. The change would ensure that preferential import treatment would only be granted to apparel made with fabric dyed and finished in the United States.
“The North Carolina members who trusted the Speaker to address their concerns at a later date knew that past promises to get textile votes for NAFTA expansion were never kept,” Wallach said. “Now the time has come to keep the latest Fast Track promise and ? surprise, surprise ? it is being broken.”
Fast Track trade authority to expand NAFTA to 31 more nations passed the House in December by one vote (215-214). Along with promising the changes in customs rules, the House leadership and the president promised to refuse to accelerate the phase-out of the MultiFibre Agreement, not to expand Pakistani textile and apparel quotas and to increase funding for country-of-origin inspections. These promises have been ignored as well: The president authorized negotiations over apparel at the World Trade Organization; Pakistani apparel quotas have risen by one third; and no new inspectors were funded.
“The old adage says, ?Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,? but is unclear on the third and fourth foolings,” Wallach said. “How many textile promises will be broken before North Carolina?s representatives stand up for their constituents, instead of party leaders, on trade?”