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More textile jobs at risk

By Daniel E. Nation
For the Salisbury Post
Everyone knows that the number of textile jobs in the United States has been in sharp decline for years. Itís an old story ó retail apparel sourcing is shifted from the Americas to China and the factory jobs go with it. Itís confounding that Congress has allowed a trade program to expire that actually supports textile jobs in the United States. Immediate action must be taken by Congress to avoid permanent damage to this supply chain.
The uncertainty of whether the Andean Trade Promotion Drug Eradication Act will be renewed is negatively impacting apparel manufacturers in Colombia and consequently hurting Parkdale and other American yarn producers who stand to permanently lose important customers. The expiration of the trade preferences could also cost U.S. cotton farmers an important Latin American market. Every entity in the U.S. apparel supply chain is in favor of extending APTDEA ó from bale to retail. This is not a common occurrence. More importantly, the expired trade preferences enjoy significant bipartisan support in Congress, as they are widely recognized as an example of a U.S. foreign policy success story. Yet, partisan bickering over other issues has prevented a vote to continue the program ó imperiling the security of American jobs.
Unfortunately, Congressional inaction has consequences. The lapse in tariff preferences has seriously disrupted demand in Colombia for U.S. yarn. Without duty free benefits, prices on Colombian-made apparel will spike, and the demand in the U.S. will drop. Such disruption of the supply chain, even for a short period of time, is catastrophic to our business, as no entity in the supply chain can fund the working capital necessary to pay the 15 percent duties. These duties amount to $15 million per month for the entire Colombian apparel sector. If this business is lost to Asia, it is lost forever.
I cannot understand why Washington is enamored with non-market economies such as China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. They seem to get anything they want while Colombia; our best ally in South America and the oldest democracy on that continent, is being used as a bargaining chip. This program has actually created jobs in the U.S. and given us a new market to service, unlike agreements with Asian countries that will continue to kill jobs in the United States textile industry.
It is because of programs such as APTDEA that my company, Parkdale Mills, has been able to expand its hemispheric operations and sustain more than 3,000 U.S. jobs. Parkdale Mills has manufactured cotton yarn in America for over 95 years, providing thousands of jobs in Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
We have built a substantial customer base in Colombiaís apparel sector. The yarn we sell to Colombia is used to manufacture a variety of garments. Fifty percent of this apparel is sold in Colombia, while the balance is exported to the United States, using the ATPDEA preferences.

Daniel E. Nation is president of Parkdale International headquartered in Gastonia.

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