The US apparel industry received a number of concessions in the trade promotion authority (TPA) or ‘fast track’ trade package that was approved by the House in a narrow 215-212 vote early Saturday, but some opponents still say it didn’t go far enough.
The bill, which preserves Congress’ constitutional right to approve or reject trade agreements but prevents lawmakers from altering or stalling these agreements in the process, is likely to get Senate approval next week.

Supporters say the trade agreement will help preserve American jobs, open overseas markets to US firms, bolster confidence in the global economy and raise living standards.

But opponents say it may accelerate the loss of US manufacturing jobs – recognised by the fact that trade adjustment assistance, or TAA, for domestic workers displaced by imports is increased to a projected $10-12 billion over 10 years.

The bill includes benefits for Andean apparel made of US fabric dyed and finished in the US and Andean apparel made of regional fabric, subject to a cap; a new tariff relief for the Caribbean region including a higher import cap for apparel made from regionally knit fabric made of US yarn; and a higher cap for T-shirts made in the Caribbean of regionally knit fabric made of US yarn.

There is also a higher import cap for Sub-Sahara African apparel made of regional or US fabric; an increase in benefits for Botswana and Namibia; and new benefits for sub-Sahara African merino wool sweaters.

The American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), angrily opposed the legislation, advising representatives not to vote for it. Chairman Van May said the bill doubles the amount of apparel made of African fabric and yarn that can enter the US duty-free to over 1 billion square metres.

“In addition,” he said, “the stipulation that third country (mostly Asian) fabric and yarn cannot be used for apparel coming in under this increased cap will be virtually impossible for US Customs to enforce.