U.S. Textile Manufacturing and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Neg
Textiles are a contentious and unresolved issue in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to establish a free-trade zone across the Pacific. Because the negotiating parties include Vietnam, a major apparel producer that now mainly sources yarns and fabrics from China and other Asian nations, the agreement has the potential to shift global trading patterns for textiles and demand for U.S. textile exports. Canada and Mexico, both significant regional textile markets for the United States, and Japan, a major manufacturer of high-end textiles and industrial fabrics, are also participants in the negotiations. U.S. textile manufacturers produce yarn, thread, and fabric for apparel, home furnishings, and various industrial applications. In 2013, the U.S. textile industry generated nearly $57 billion in shipments and directly employed about 230,700 Americans, accounting for approximately 2% of all U.S. factory jobs.
More than one-third of U.S. textile production is exported, with the bulk of the exports going to Western Hemisphere nations that are members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), and the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). These free trade agreements provide that certain exports from member countries may enter the U.S. market duty-free only if they are made from textiles produced in the region. This has encouraged manufacturers in Mexico and Central America to use U.S.-made yarns and fabrics in apparel, home furnishings, and other products. Exports to the NAFTA and CAFTA-DR countries contributed to a U.S. trade surplus of $2.4 billion in yarns and fabrics in 2013. The TPP has the potential to affect U.S. textile exporters in at least two ways.
First, it could enable Asian apparel producers, principally Vietnam, to export clothing to the United States dutyfree. This would eliminate much of the advantage now enjoyed by Western Hemisphere apparel producers in the U.S. market and, because Vietnamese manufacturers make little use of U.S.- made textiles, could reduce demand for U.S. textile exports. Second, if the TPP were to allow Western Hemisphere apparel manufacturers to use yarn and fabric made anywhere in the TPP region and still enjoy preferential access to the U.S. market, an enlarged Vietnamese textile industry could, at some future time, compete with U.S. exporters in Mexico and Central America.