President Biden’s Historic Visit to Auburn Manufacturing Inc. (AMI)

Source: White House

President Biden’s historic visit to Auburn Manufacturing on Friday elevated our industry’s profile and reinforced its competitiveness and economic contribution in regional and national media headlines and news video clips across the country.

AMI CEO Kathie Leonard introduced President Biden and outlined the challenges her company has faced over the years, including inflation, unfair import competition and a once-in-a generation pandemic that nearly derailed her company. But a major battle she won against Chinese companies dumping silica fabric on the U.S. market, combined with federal policies aimed at bolstering U.S. manufacturing have led to a new era of revitalization and growth.

“We started in Mechanic Falls with two people (I was one of them) and have expanded exponentially over time. We are now in two places…and we now have over 50 people and we are track to increase our workforce by another 30 percent,” Leonard said.

“Growing a business, especially exponentially isn’t easy. We experienced many challenges over the years. First of all, the interest rate; it was 14 percent when we started building our first building. That’s pretty high. Secondly, China’s dumping of silica fabric, one of our major products, stole 30 percent of our domestic industry by 2016 and that forced us to file an antidumping case against China, and it was successful but very expensive.

Then, COVID hit just as we were recovering from what we’d been through the last several years. That was a really difficult time for all of us.

Leonard credited several policies, including the American Rescue Plan, and a focus on American manufacturing as catalysts that helped keep Auburn afloat and reignite the U.S. economy.

“So, we’re now back. We’re growing our workforce again. We are entering new markets and we’re upgrading our plants and equipment. While our tagline is ‘Innovation on Fire,’ we were on the brink of flaming out for a while. It really is now Innovation Reignited.”

To see a video clip highlighting key points from remarks by President Biden and Auburn’s Kathie Leonard please clip on the box or link below:

NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas was also in attendance at this historic presidential visit at Auburn Manufacturing and had a chance to meet briefly with President Biden. She said she talked about the importance of his visit to Auburn and to the whole U.S. textile industry. She also emphasized the resilience and competitiveness of our industry and stressed that with the help of his administration promoting policies to spur more onshoring and nearshoring, the industry will continue to be an important and vital contributor to the U.S. economy.

In his remarks, President Biden outlined the challenges manufacturing industries, such as textiles and paper, have faced over the past two decades, particularly in Maine, where Auburn Manufacturing is located.

He said past administrations and other economic policies led to the offshoring of manufacturing that “hollowed out” the U.S. manufacturing sector. “What did most of these guys do?  They decided to send the jobs overseas where the labor was cheaper and bring the product made back to the United States more expensive.  Entire towns and communities got hollowed out not just here in Maine, but all across America.  This is not just for Maine, this is all of America.  Small towns and medium-sized towns all across America factories got shut down,” Biden said.

President Biden pointed to a few examples of companies bearing the brunt of offshoring in Auburn and Lewiston, Maine.

“Let me remind you of a few examples: Auburn and Lewiston, right next door, used to be home to some of the country’s largest textile mills.  Bates Manufacturing was the largest employer in Maine with thousands of employees supplying the country with high-quality cloth and quilts,” he said.

Bates Manufacturing survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, and two World Wars.  But in the 1990s, American textile production moved overseas, and Bates closed up shop.  And by the way, my state used to be a gigantic producer of textile, the DuPont Company.”

He also highlighted similar examples of the impact on Maine’s iconic paper industry, which lost 8,000 jobs over the past two decades, he said.

“Take the Verso mill in Bucksport.  Founded in [1929].  [It] provided generations of good jobs and up to 40 percent — 47 percent of the town’s tax revenue.  A decade ago, it closed down, devastating the town, like so many thousands of towns all across America,” Biden noted.

Between 1990 and 2010, Maine lost nearly 45,000 manufacturing jobs, he said.

“And like we saw across the country, once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be.  And when these towns were hollowed out, something else was lost as well.  And I come from Northeast Pennsylvania; I know about shutting down towns.  Pride — people lost their pride.

Folks, this is what trickle-down economics looks like.  But now we’re turning things around.”

Biden pointed to Kathie Leonard’s Auburn Manufacturing as a success story as he stood in the center of her state-of-the art facility surrounded by her employees and other invited guests.

“Like here at Auburn Manufacturing, now, you heard Kathie talk about starting this company 40 years ago making advanced textiles that are fire and heat resistant.  They weathered decades of economic storms.  Now with the help of the American Rescue Plan, they’re having their biggest export year ever.  The company is growing, and their products are made in America.”

You can view a full transcript of President Biden’s remarks here.

To listen to the full White House Clip of the event please click here.

 

NCTO Celebrates American Independence, Innovation & Textiles

The 4th of July is an American holiday unlike any other, complete with backyard BBQs, parades, national concerts, and, of course, fireworks. At the height of summer, Americans across the country gather to celebrate our unique history and the values that define the American spirit of independence.

In that same spirit, the National Council of Textile Organizations celebrates Independence Day this year with a look at the history of the U.S. textile industry, which has played a remarkable role in America’s industrial and economic independence through a history of significant investment, employment, and technological development and innovation.

The birth of the textile industry in the U.S. coincides with our independence from England. Despite England’s best attempts to monopolize textile production by forbidding the exportation of textile technology and intellectual property, creative minds found their path to the States not long after the U.S. gained its independence in 1776 (2020, Frederic Magazine, Innovation or Bust! The Surprising Story of New England’s Textile Heyday).

In 1789, Samuel Slater, who would come to be known as the father of American Manufacturing, immigrated to the U.S. with the goal of establishing the country’s first textile mill. He did just that in 1791 by establishing the first yarn mill through his partnership with American entrepreneur and abolitionist Moses Brown. Shortly after, in 1793, American inventor Eli Whitney developed the cotton gin, rapidly increasing the efficiency of sorting cotton seed from cotton fiber. These two critical innovations paved the way for Francis Cabot Lowell, an American merchant, to build the first integrated textile factory in the United States, capable of converting raw cotton into finished cloth in one mill. The ingenuity and efforts of these pioneers in the textile sector marked the start of the Industrial Revolution in America, which allowed the U.S. to establish the economic freedom and security it needed to grow as a young nation. (ibid.)

Now, more than 200 years later, America still boasts a vibrant, multifaceted textile industry that employs 538,067 workers nationwide. From textile fibers to apparel and other sewn products, the industry excels at producing high-tech, innovative solutions for both the American and global market alike. In fact, the United States is the world leader in textile research and development, with the U.S. textile complex developing next generation textile materials such as conductive fabric with anti-static properties, electronic textiles that can monitor heart rate and other vital signs, antimicrobial fibers, and new fabrics capable of adapting to the climate to make the wearer warmer or cooler. These developments make the U.S. textile industry, along with its suppliers and customers, an important component of the U.S. economy. The industry also provides much needed jobs in rural areas and has functioned as a springboard for workers out of poverty into good paying jobs for generations.

Despite these successes, the industry has faced extreme competition from overseas producers for more than 40 years. While such competition helps to foster incredible innovation amongst American textile companies to remain viable, the U.S. textile industry has consistently dealt with an uneven global playing field due to rampant foreign subsidies, closed offshore markets, and substandard environmental and human labor conditions.  These varying standards result in a global sourcing entities seeking lowest-cost products often of poor quality and built on massive carbon emissions from distant supply chains and even forced labor (2023 Sourcing Journal, Forced Labor and the De Minimis Loophole: Two Sides of the Same Coin)

Further, the offshoring of such a critical industry, responsible for manufacturing products of key importance to our national health and defense, poses national security risks. This risk was made fully apparent at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when American citizens, hospitals and frontline workers found themselves unable to access critical personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the complete offshoring of supply chains to low-cost overseas’ competitors. In response, the American textile industry made heroic efforts to retool production and operations virtually overnight, producing millions of face masks, isolation gowns, testing swabs and other critical medical textiles when our country needed it most.

Despite these heroic actions and the coinciding investments that were made by American business owners, these critical supply chains are already at risk of being offshored again. To ensure that they do not, it is critical that the federal government expeditiously implement recently adopted legislation governing domestic procurement, such as the Make PPE in America Act. This legislation, which resulted from the harsh lessons learned during the supply chain crises of COVID-19, is designed to reshore and maintain a strategic PPE production chain in the United States by requiring that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs procure only PPE that is wholly made (i.e., 100 percent made in the USA, from the production of the fiber to the yarn, fabric, and finished product) and assembled in the U.S. This important legislation also requires a contract duration for federally procured PPE of no less than two years. Such long-term commitments provide domestic manufacturers with a consistent demand signal that allows them to invest, plan, develop and deliver the medical protective goods our government and nation depend on for safety and security.

At the same time, the research and development needed to produce such innovations requires significant financial commitments. From 2012 to 2021, the U.S. textile industry invested $20.9 billion in new plants and equipment. During this time, U.S. manufacturers opened new facilities throughout the textile production chain, including recycling facilities to convert textile and other waste to new textile uses and resins. These advancements reveal the direct relationship between investment, innovation, and long-term competitiveness. To survive in the constantly evolving and increasingly competitive landscape that dictates textile and apparel production, companies must constantly develop new ways to manufacture inputs and goods more efficiently.

It does not take much to see why U.S. textiles are a quintessential story of American spirit and industry. So, as we take this holiday to pause and celebrate the individual and economic freedoms we enjoy daily, let us also celebrate the rich history of American textiles as a critical part of industrial importance. Thanks to manufacturing efforts such as theirs, American citizens can access everything from high-quality everyday textile items to sophisticated textile technologies. By keeping critical supply chains and their research close to home, Americans are guaranteed more sustainable and reliable access to essential products when we need them most.

As we celebrate the 4th of July and American independence, we recognize that many of our forefathers took sizable business and investment risks that has helped foster our modern economy from which we all benefit today. And a strong economy allows us to safeguard our independence.

American manufacturing needs Congress and the Administration’s continued support to help shape trade and economic policies that provide a level-playing field for the U.S. industry. Please contact the National Council of Textile Organizations to discuss how you can support the domestic textile and apparel industries in their efforts to reshore and regionalize supply chains and strengthen U.S. manufacturing.

 

 

Forced Labor and the De Minimis Loophole: Two Sides of the Same Coin

(Op-Ed by NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas featured in Sourcing Journal and found on its site here.)

In a classic example of the government’s left hand not working in concert with the right, two contrary policies are facilitating the importation of millions of products into the U.S. market each day to unknowing consumers likely purchasing items made with forced labor and counterfeit products.

And it continues to put American manufacturers, workers, and consumers at risk without a legislative fix.

The policies at the heart of the issue are the recently implemented Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) and a little-known legal trade mechanism dubbed “Section 321 de minimis,” in U.S. trade law that is in turn being exploited by Chinese e-commerce companies, online marketplaces and other mass marketers.

The de minimis mechanism allows a package of goods valued at $800 or less per person to come into the country duty-free every day. With the explosion of e-commerce shipments in recent years, it is now being aggressively used by Chinese e-commerce companies and other mass marketers that are shipping in millions of products directly to consumers that otherwise would be subject to tariffs, penalty tariffs, taxes, and customs inspection.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, there is a “big problem” with U.S. efforts to stop imports of Chinese products made with forced labor due to the de minimis loophole that allows millions of shipments duty-free that require little paperwork and are largely uninspected.

While Congress never intended for banned products made with forced labor in Xinjiang, China, to enter the U.S. market through the de minimis provision, every day, more than 2 million uninspected shipments enter the U.S. market exploiting this loophole.

In fact, the flood of de minimis shipments into the U.S. has turned into a virtual tsunami, soaring more than 350 percent over the past 6 years and overwhelming our ports and the government’s ability to adequately enforce bans on counterfeits, fentanyl and other illicit drugs, and goods made with forced labor.  De minimis shipments have undoubtedly spiked in recent years beyond the 2 million shipments U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimated were arriving per day in fiscal year 2021.  This compares to fiscal 2016—the year Congress increased the de minimis threshold from $200 to $800—when CBP data estimated 150 million shipments entered the U.S. annually.

So, an efficiency tool for the Customs service, originally intended to take the burden off the agency on low-value items such as souvenirs brought back by tourists, has now been reportedly exploited by e-commerce companies and mass marketers for business efficiencies to skirt tariffs and the UFLPA—a glaring contradiction that undermines the efficacy of laws and Customs regulations and a huge win for China.

In effect, U.S. textile producers and other manufacturers are not only competing with forced labor production, but an import duty scheme that rewards such behavior in the form of a tariff subsidy. All of this is occurring in clear violation of the UFLPA. The exploitation of de minimis translates into a “de maximis” impact on domestic textile companies and those in our Free Trade Agreement partner countries.

While Congress raised the duty-free limit for de minimis shipments from $200 to $800 seven years ago, the Chinese government keeps its own de minimis threshold to a meager $8.

Fortunately, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have recently sounded the alarm about the de minimis mechanism, how it is reportedly exploited by Chinese e-commerce companies such as Shein and other mass marketers, and the backdoor access it provides to products made with forced labor in Xinjiang.

In the latest congressional action, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Neal Dunn (R-FL), and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced bipartisan legislation on Thursday in their respective chambers that would effectively prohibit non-market economies, including China and Russia, from exploiting the Section 321 de minimis mechanism. “The de minimis loophole is a threat to American competitiveness, consumer safety, and basic human rights,” said Rep. Blumenauer, who is ranking member on the House Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee. “It is used by primarily Chinese companies to ship over two million packages a day into the United States. It puts American businesses at a competitive disadvantage while flooding American consumers with undoubtedly harmful products.”

Separately, a group of more than two dozen bipartisan House members sent a letter to the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, expressing concern that Shein and other companies with direct-to-consumer business models may be “actively skirting import restrictions and evading CBP enforcement, selling goods in the U.S. in violation of the UFLPA” by using the de minimis mechanism. The lawmakers pointed to a Bloomberg News investigative report,  in which lab testing conducted by the news outlet reportedly turned up cotton from Xinjiang in Shein’s apparel products.

House Ways & Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) recently agreed this is a major problem. “It appears that loophole is almost an $800 free trade agreement for China for any products underneath that,” Smith said at a recent hearing.

And the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently opened a probe into companies and brands at the center of allegations over tainted apparel tied to forced labor in Xinjiang and the reported abuse of the de minimis loophole.

The stakes are high. It is time for Congress to take a stand and fully close the de minimis loophole. Failure to do so not only undermines the intention of the UFLPA, but also indirectly bolsters forced labor abroad.

Due to exploitative business practices, de minimis and forced labor have become two sides of the same coin. This coin should be taken out of circulation.

Kim Glas is the president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations and is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles and Apparel at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Webinar: Bluecrew Staffing Solution – Save the Date!

CLICK TO REGISTER

At 1pm on Wednesday, July 12, NCTO will conduct a webinar to introduce Bluecrew, a W-2 staffing platform, designed to meet the challenge of labor demand across the light industrial, manufacturing, and transportation/distribution industries. During the webinar, representatives from Bluecrew will provide an overview of the platform and its services, with a tailored look at how the platform can help solve labor shortages across our industry.

To preview this event, please view the below Q&A NCTO conducted with Bluecrew:

What is Bluecrew?

Bluecrew’s workforce as a service helps businesses address the challenges of variable demand by combining an agile high-quality workforce, powerful management technology, and actionable data. Our platform gives workplaces instant access to 100k+ W-2 hourly workers who are prequalified, background checked, and e-verified.

What makes Bluecrew different from other staffing and labor recruitment services?

Traditional: It takes about 24 days to fill an open job when you stick to the traditional method of hiring: coordinating a post with the agency, waiting for it to fill… and then hoping the worker(s) shows up. Our app gives you 24/7 instant access to qualified, prescreened W-2 workers, and positions are often filled in hours. And if they’re not, we have the data to tell you why.

Gig: We’re W-2 only, because high quality workers—and you—shouldn’t settle for less. With our platform + app, you can also schedule our Crew Members without the additional burden of worrying about misclassifying employees, missing a legal requirement, or providing your own benefits and insurance (saving you about 20% in labor costs in the process).

What types of jobs does Bluecrew fill?

Full or part-time, short or long-term, Bluecrew specializes in positions across the supply chain (manufacturing, warehousing, freight and logistics) and hospitality industries (hotels and lodging, food and beverage, events) but we’re constantly expanding the areas we support.

What makes Bluecrew an optimal solution for the textile industry specifically?

Because Bluecrew builds pools of workers who have gone through a background check, e-verification check, as well as additional onboarding prerequisites, we’re able to supply the textile industry the people you need when you need them.  We can assist in long-term positions that could become permanent, or we could help out because you got an unexpected surge in business. Our platform is built to serve your needs.

To help tailor their presentation to the needs of NCTO members, we’ve developed a short, three-question survey. Please click here to complete the survey and provide your input.

Click here to REGISTER and mark your calendar for this special opportunity to gain hands-on insight into this workforce recruitment tool.

Main Takeaways from Key Textile Trade Negotiator’s Visit to the Carolinas and the Heart of the American Textile Industry

Dr. Laurie-Ann Agama, Acting Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Textiles, who toured seven NCTO member companies’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities earlier this month, said she came away from the meetings with “a better and deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities U.S. manufacturers face in trade.”

Dr. Agama, who was accompanied by a U.S. textile trade team, experienced firsthand the industry’s innovation, resilience, and breadth of products in visits at the following NCTO member companies: Glen Raven, Parkdale Mills, Unifi, Gildan, Barnet, Standard Textile and Beverly Knits.

“We learned a lot about the trade issues affecting the textile industry and I come away from this trip with a better and deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities U.S. manufacturers face in trade – I have a number of specific case studies and stories to share which clearly illustrate how trade and commerce affect people and communities in the United States,” Dr. Agama said in an email to NCTO staff.

Her visit comes at a pivotal time for the U.S. textile industry, which produced $65.8 billion in output in 2022 and employed 538,000 workers. The broader textile supply chain in the U.S. is a critical manufacturing segment contributing to job growth, investments, and innovation. From 2012-2021, capital investment in U.S. yarn, fabric and apparel and sewn products manufacturing totals $20.9 billion.

In addition, U.S. textile companies have been strong partners with the administration’s “Call to Action” for Central America to address the root causes of outward migration, spurring $2 billion in textile and apparel investments in the region in the past 18 months and bolstering a vibrant co-production chain that supports more than 1 million workers in the U.S. and the region.

Washington policies matter now more than ever, particularly this year, in which the industry has seen weakening orders due to economic headwinds, a continuing glut of inventory at retail, and a production slowdown, which taken together, are creating a more challenging business environment for the industry. That is why an industry roundtable with industry executives at the end of Dr. Agama’s three-day tour hosted by Unifi in Greensboro, N.C. was imperative.

U.S. textile executives spanning the fiber, yarn, fabric, and finished product textile and apparel industries participated in the roundtable and outlined critical policies, such as: the importance of maintaining the yarn forward rule of origin in the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and other trade agreements; advancing the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) and its importance to domestic manufacturers; closing the de minimis loophole in U.S. trade law; addressing larger systemic trade issues, particularly the use of forced labor, with China; and upholding buy American and Berry Amendment government procurement policies.

“We gathered a lot of technical information and saw first-hand the innovation, automation, and investments that have been made to improve U.S. competitiveness and gathered insights on how trade and U.S. trade policy affect and could support the industry and their business decisions to increase jobs in the United States and Central America and could facilitate increased production and exports,” Dr. Agama said. “This tour further strengthened our already strong relationships and partnerships.”

NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas, who toured the facilities and participated in the industry roundtable, lauded the visit by Dr. Agama and the USTR textile team, noting “the substantive discussions provided critical insight into the importance of the  U.S. textile industry to local economies and the overall U.S. economy, while giving textile executives an opportunity to demonstrate their innovative prowess and explain how Washington policies translate into everyday impact on their business operations.”

“We look forward to working closely with Dr. Agama, the USTR textile team, and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai to advance policies that incentivize domestic and regional manufacturing, while enforcing legislation that addresses illegal trade practices, such as forced labor and transshipments, that undermine this industry,” Glas said.

Dr. Agama concluded, “I look forward to continuing to work with you [NCTO and the industry] to increase U.S. textile trade, support industry’s efforts to create new jobs, provide good wages and benefits to their workers, and commitments to generate overall positive impacts in surrounding communities, especially in rural areas similar to those we visited and passed through in N.C. and S.C.”

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Memorial Day: Celebrating American Textiles & the U.S. Military

Every Memorial Day, Americans pause to honor the lives of those who have died serving our country as a member of the U.S. military. It is a day dedicated to their heroic sacrifices based on a belief in American values and the hope for a better future. It’s also a day for celebration. As the official kickoff to the summer season, it is a day for community, barbeques, and setting our minds to the warm summer days ahead.

In the spirit of honoring our military heroes and anticipating the excitement of summer, the National Council of Textile Organizations celebrates Memorial Day with a look at some of the unique aspects of the U.S. textile supply chain and its role in serving our heroes in uniform.

The history of the U.S. textile industry’s service to the U.S. military is as old as the military itself. From the uniforms soldiers rely on for protection from the elements to the flags hoisted high above our causes, American textiles have always held a critical role in military operations and symbolism.

That history of course still thrives today. As the face of modern warfare has evolved, U.S. textile technology has kept pace by consistently developing new, cutting-edge textile technology to ensure the top performance and protection our warfighters demand and deserve. Each year, the U.S. textile industry supplies over 8,000 different types of products, ranging from advanced body amor to aircraft bodies, to our men and women in uniform, making it a key contributor to our national defense and supplies.

Further, the development of textile innovations for military use plays a critical role in U.S. textile competitiveness within the global market, while giving consumers access to sophisticated textile products useful for their everyday lives. For example, everyday products from Kleenex to Kevlar are available today thanks to military-funded research and development. And it’s no surprise that textiles developed for military use are amongst the most innovative in the world. In fact, the United States is the world leader in textile research and development, with the U.S. textile complex developing next generation textile materials such as conductive fabric with anti-static properties, electronic textiles that can monitor heart rate and other vital signs, antimicrobial fibers, and new fabrics that adapt to the climate to make the wearer warmer or cooler. To ensure that the continued research and manufacturing needed to provide high-performance textile materials to the U.S. military comes from a reliable source in times of crisis, those products must be supplied by a vibrant American textile production chain.

Still, the research and development needed to produce such innovations requires significant financial commitments. From 2012 to 2021, the U.S. textile industry invested $20.9 billion in new plants and equipment. During this time, U.S. manufacturers opened new facilities throughout the textile production chain, including recycling facilities to convert textile and other waste to new textile uses and resins.

But industry cannot carry this financial burden alone. With extreme competition from offshore manufacturers with varying ethical and sustainability practices and oversight, U.S. textile manufacturers are often left competing against low-cost suppliers with substandard environmental, workplace safety and labor practices. As we saw at the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, our reliance on such offshore suppliers and their production chains leaves the U.S. vulnerable when confronted with a health pandemic or a serious challenge to our national security.

For that reason, it is beyond necessary to bolster our industry’s efforts to equip our military through federal legislation and procurement practices that prioritize domestic manufacturing. This can be done by preserving and expanding key legislation, such as the Kissell and Berry Amendments, which require the domestic production of textiles procured by the Department of Defense and some agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.. In addition, it is critical that we support international trade arrangements and free trade agreements that spur the use of domestic content, such as CAFTA-DR. These mechanisms, combined with the industry’s history of research-based innovation, are the backbone of the more than 30,000 textile manufacturing facilities both big and small across the United States that employ over 538,000 domestic workers who are responsible for an annual output of over $66 billion. Their combined efforts make the U.S. the third largest exporter of textile-related products globally.

It is also critical that our government agencies expeditiously implement recently adopted legislation governing domestic procurement, such as the Make PPE in America Act. This legislation, which resulted from the harsh lessons learned during the supply chain crises of COVID-19, is designed to reshore and maintain a strategic personal protective equipment (PPE) production chain in the United States by requiring that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs procure only PPE that is wholly made (i.e., 100 percent made in the USA, from the production of the fiber to the yarn, fabric, and finished product) and assembled in the U.S. This important legislation also requires a contract duration for federally procured PPE of no less than two years. Such long-term commitments provide domestic manufacturers with a consistent demand signal that allows them to invest, plan, develop and deliver the medical protective goods our government and nation depend on for safety and security.

It does not take much to see why U.S. textiles are a quintessential story of American spirit and industry. So, as we take this holiday to pause and celebrate our fallen heroes and the freedoms their sacrifices allow us to enjoy, let us also celebrate the rich history of American textiles as a critical part of our national defense. Thanks to manufacturing efforts such as theirs, American warfighters can rely on the highest quality, most sophisticated and dependable military uniforms, protective materials and gear that also drive the innovations for textile products average Americans use every day. By keeping critical supply chains and their research close to home, Americans are guaranteed more sustainable and reliable access to essential products when we need them most.

This Memorial Day, let’s remember the sacrifices of our fellow Americans and enjoy the life they fought to protect. As consumers, let’s prioritize American-made products and, by doing so, support our national defense and invest in our future.

Congressional Scrutiny Intensifies Over De Minimis Loophole Bipartisan Concern Mounts

Congressional and federal regulatory scrutiny of Chinese imports entering the U.S. through a trade loophole in U.S. trade law has intensified over the past few weeks, as calls to address and potentially change a little-known legal trade mechanism known as “Section 321 de minimis” continue to gain momentum.

Key Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including the House Ways & Means Chairman, the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and senators have weighed in on this mechanism.

The de minimis provision of U.S. trade law allows a package of goods valued at $800 or less per person to come into the country duty free everyday through e-commerce. And it is now being aggressively used, letting millions of products into the U.S. market duty free that otherwise would be subject to tariffs, penalty tariffs, taxes and customs inspection.

In 2016, the U.S. government raised the de minimis threshold to $800 while the Chinese government kept its own threshold at meager $8. Since then, e-commerce shipments from China have exploded, reportedly driven in large part by Chinese e-commerce companies and other mass marketers, which have enjoyed meteoric growth.

In fact, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that we are on pace to hit over 1 billion in de minimis shipments this year alone, which equates to approximately 2.7 million shipments a day. This is estimated to be the highest spike in de minimis imports—up from 2 million shipments per day in fiscal year 2021. To provide further context to the alarming nature of this exponential growth in de minimis shipments, CBP data estimates that these shipments totaled only 150 million in fiscal 2016—the year Congress increased the de minimis threshold from $200 to $800.

Congressional leaders have recently sounded the alarm about the de minimis mechanism.

Most recently, Sen. Marco Rubio penned an op-ed published in Newsweek on the de minimis loophole that is reportedly allowing goods made with forced labor to enter into the United States unchecked and undermining the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). Sen. Rubio says it is time to “reevaluate our nation’s de minimis standards.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), ranking member on the Ways & Means trade subcommittee, who is the lead sponsor of legislation aimed at prohibiting goods from non-market economies that are also on a government trade watchlist–China—from benefiting from de minimis treatment, said at a House Ways & Means hearing on May 9 that he planned to reintroduce his legislation in this session of Congress, and he appeared to gain some support from Chairman Smith.

He said companies use “creative invoicing” on imported products or shipments valued at over the $800 de minimis threshold to take advantage of the duty-free benefits and evade inspection, noting the loophole is “swallowing the exception in ways that are really detrimental to American business and the safety of American consumers.”

And in what could prove to be a defining moment, House Ways & Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) agreed this is a major problem.

Their full exchange can be viewed here:


https://youtu.be/8T_WGG9bXvM

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently opened a probe into companies and brands at the center of allegations over tainted apparel tied to forced labor in Xinjiang and the reported abuse of the de minimis loophole.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), chairman of the committee was recently on major news networks to voice concern about the aggressive use of the de minimis loophole and compliance with UFLPA. See the video clip here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwIFJf6IU6k

Congressman Gallagher also addressed the de minimis issue specifically in a video he released on Twitter. See the clip here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCg1XYj3ARU

“The de minimis exception wasn’t supposed to be a loophole for foreign businesses looking to skirt human rights legislation and taxes,” Rep. Gallagher said. “It was meant to minimize the burden on customs agents actually.”

In addition, Democratic leaders from the China Select Committee have made recent comments. See a clip here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLY6fRajTPU

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) has been highly engaged on these issues for the past four years, raising concerns about the flagrant use of de minimis to facilitate nearly 3 million packages a day to the U.S., allowing tainted and counterfeit apparel and other consumer products to bleed into the U.S. market.

NCTO has testified at congressional hearings and engaged in numerous meetings with lawmakers and U.S. trade officials. She has also raised alarm over the issues in countless interviews and several op-eds.

See Glas’ three op-eds on de minimis here:

As Glas notes in her op-eds, “At $800, the United States has one of the highest in the world. While we hold our door wide open, the Chinese government keeps its door virtually shut [to U.S. exports]. An $800 versus $8 limit is hardly a reciprocal arrangement. Instead, we’re unilaterally giving China a massive tax and trade concession. The very least we should do is match China’s threshold.”

Meanwhile, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the ULFPA in December 2021, there has been global condemnation about the abuse of Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang, China and numerous exposés from prominent news outlets about the use of forced labor to make widely known global apparel brands and labels.

A Bloomberg report seemingly crystallized the connections through laboratory tests conducted by the news outlet that reportedly found garments shipped to the U.S. by Shein were made with cotton from China’s Xinjiang region.

This is clearly a case of two government policies—UFLPA and an outdated de minimis mechanism– working at cross-purposes. We are seeing the unintended consequence of one policy canceling out the other.

The de minimis mechanism is literally undermining efforts to hold China accountable, hurting American manufacturing competitiveness, and stifling the government’s ability to enforce the UFLPA.

Intensifying pressure on the two Chinese e-commerce giants to change their practices is a step in the right direction but to truly address the root cause of the problem, Congress should and can act to close the de minimis loophole.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed legislation with bipartisan support that is designed to close the de minimis loophole, but the legislation to date has stalled in Congress.

Closure of this loophole will prevent companies from overtly circumventing other measures to curb China’s illegal trade practices, including the 301 tariffs and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. And help level the playing field for American textile and apparel manufacturers.

American Textiles Sustainability Achievements 2023

In celebration of Earth Day, which falls on April 22 each year, the National Council of Textile Organizations is sharing media coverage and highlights of sustainable achievements and developments by the American textile and apparel industry thus far in 2023.

The U.S. textile industry, its domestic suppliers, and customers are an important component of the U.S. economy and are found in every region of the country. In addition, the domestic textile industry provides numerous advantages for a greener future, including transparent supply chains with a reduced carbon footprint for American consumers and leading innovations in eco-friendly production and in environmental standards and regulations.

We are happy to share the industry’s achievements for the year thus far. American textiles continue to look for new ways to improve current production standards and invent new solutions for the future. Join us in celebrating these amazing, sustainable achievements by American textiles. Happy Earth Day!

eTextile Communications Glen Raven releases Corporate Sustainability Report April 20, 2023

Sourcing Journal Fruit of the Loom’s New Undies Use Lenzing Ecovero April 20, 2023

Nonwovens Industry Trützschler Presents Efficient Solutions for Manufacturing Fiber-Based Nonwovens April 20, 2023

Architectural Digest 7 Sustainable Materials and Products Designers Should Know About Right Now April 20, 2023

AP News HanesBrands Makes Significant Progress Toward its 2025 and 2030 Global Sustainability Goals April 20, 2023

AP News Milliken & Company Marks Five Years of Progress in 2022 Sustainability Report, “FOR HUMANKIND” April 19, 2023

eTextile Communications Lenzing expands responsible viscose fiber portfolio with new offering April 13, 2023

eTextile Communications Teijin supports JCI’s call for stronger action on climate, energy crises April 13, 2023

eTextile Communications Teijin Frontier facilitates recycling of discarded polyester apparel April 13, 2023

Media Africa 247 The LYCRA Company Launches LYCRA EnviroFit™ Fiber at INDEX™ 23 April 13, 2023

BioFuels Digest Fruit of the Loom introduces wood fiber underwear for men April 10, 2023

Alexander City Outlook HanesBrands’ Chief Sustainability Officer Offers Tips on Becoming a More Conscious Consumer Ahead of Earth Day April 12, 2023

Textile World Teijin Frontier Facilitates Recycling Of Discarded Polyester Apparel With Novel Technology For Removing Polyurethane Elastomer Fiber April 10, 2023

Sourcing Journal Lenzing Taps 3 Mills to Produce Mechanically Recycled Tencel April 7, 2023

Business Wire The LYCRA Company Launches LYCRA EnviroFit™ Fiber at INDEX™ 23 April 13, 2023

HanesBrands HanesBrands Awarded U.S. EPA Energy Star Award for Environmental Stewardship for 14thConsecutive Year March 29, 2023

Inside Fashion Live Cone Denim Establishes Certified Recycled Cotton Supply Chain March 23, 2023

Furniture, Lighting & Décor Glen Raven Inc. to Eliminate PFAS Chemicals Across Entire Portfolio March 22, 2023

Sourcing Journal Lycra’s Global Factories Achieve High Higg Assessment Marks March 22, 2023

Sourcing Journal Glen Raven to Remove PFAS from its Fabrics March 21, 2023

Sourcing Journal’s Rivet YKK NAMED ‘SUPPLIER ENGAGEMENT LEADER’ BY CDP March 16, 2023

Textile World YKK Recognized As A Supplier Engagement Leader, CDP’s Highest Rating For Supplier Engagement On Climate Change March 15, 2023

WISNews TENCEL™ showcases innovative fiber applications and new textile trends at leading tradeshows March 15, 2023

Sourcing Journal Tencel Luxe Starred on the Oscars Red Carpet March 13, 2023

Sourcing Journal Milliken Scrubs PFAS from Fibers and Finishes March 7, 2023

Environmental Leader Made of Strong Fiber: UNIFI Surpasses Recycling Goal in Spite of Apparel Industry Disruption March 3, 2023

Sourcing Journal Unifi CEO: Tech Investments, Textile Upcycling Advance Carbon Reduction March 3, 2023

Textile World Under Armour Announces New Methodology to Measure Fiber Shedding February 28, 2023

AP News UNIFI®, Makers of REPREVE®, Publishes New Sustainability Report – Company Aims to Transform 50 Billion Plastic Bottles by 2025 February 22, 2023

ATA Specialty Fabrics Review Milliken & Co. eliminates PFAS from portfolio February 22, 2023

PT Online K 2022 Additives & Materials: Sustainability in the Lead February 21, 2023

Textile World Lenzing And NFW Partner To Provide Sustainable Leather Alternatives For Fashion February 20, 2023

Textile World Teijin Named “Excellent Company For Sustainability” By S&P Global February 20, 2023

The Hill Nearshoring textiles has been a success: Here’s how we can do even better February 18, 2023

Market Screener Lenzing AG: Together with partners, Lenzing succeeds in reaching a milestone in the development of a circular-based fashion collection February 14, 2023

3BL Media HanesBrands Reaches Solar Energy Milestones February 13, 2023

NCTO TIN Blog Unifi’s Meredith Boyd on Sustainability February 13, 2023

NCTO TIN Blog LYCRA’s Jean Hegedus on Sustainability February 13, 2023

NCTO TIN Blog Gherzi USA’s Bob Antoshak on Sustainability February 13, 2023

NCTO TIN Blog BASF’s Ray Daniels on Sustainability February 13, 2023

eTextile Communications Dovetail Workwear partners with CiCLO® sustainable textile technology February 8, 2023

Endurance Sportswire Polartec Introduces Shed Less Technology to Reduce Textile Fiber Fragment Shedding February 7, 2023

eTextile Communications Archroma now upcycling textile waste into colorful dyes January 26, 2023

WL Gore & Associates Membrion Announces Its Collaboration With W. L. Gore & Associates to Develop Ultra-thin Ceramic Ion Exchange Membranes for Energy Efficient Desalination of Harsh Wastewater Streams January 25, 2023

Elevate Textiles Sustainability is woven into our very DNA at Elevate Textiles

NCTO’s Textiles in the News Fashion’s environmental governance begins with nearshoring and onshoring January 20, 2023

Fashion United How could fibre recycling become mainstream? In conversation with Lenzing’s veteran Michael Kininmonth January 20, 2023

Access Wire Gildan Included on the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations List by Corporate Knights’ January 19, 2023

eTextile Communications Burlington Performance Apparel introduces biobased stretch fabric collection during OR January 12, 2023

TMC Net HanesBrands Recognized for Sustainability Leadership, Earning A- Scores in Both Climate Change and Water Security From CDP January 10, 2023

Apparel News Unifi’s Textile Takeback Program Aims to Change the Fate of Polyester January 5, 2023

On the Record with Bill Jackson

I first met Bill Jackson as a reporter with Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) in Washington, covering the impact of trade policy on textile and apparel manufacturers and retailers for a trade publication known as the “Bible of Fashion.”

Flashing those credentials did not automatically open the doors on Capitol Hill or within the various federal agencies spanning three administrations, though they were the golden ticket to the glittery runways and showrooms on Seventh Avenue and the hallowed fashion ateliers of Paris and Milan.

But as I became acquainted with administration officials in the agencies crafting policies impacting the industry as a whole, the doors began to open a little wider.

Bill became Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Textiles (AUSTR) in April 2016, according to his official USTR bio, and I met him for the first time at an industry event that I was covering for WWD.

I was on deadline for the story, and it would have been a coup for a trade reporter to get a quote from an important trade official and insider like Bill. But Bill declined the interview request at the time, with a grin and an “I know better than to speak to a reporter” glint in his eye.

Obtaining a quote from Bill became my mission over the years and though I probably did ultimately score a quote on the record from him, it was a rare occurrence.

And it remained that way until the close of NCTO’s 19th Annual Meeting on March 30, when Bill, who was a day shy of retirement, agreed to answer a few questions from me (now VP of Communications for NCTO) about his tenure as AUSTR of Textiles and his outlook for the U.S. textile industry.

NCTO: What have you learned about the textile industry during your tenure at USTR?

BJ: I think the key thing about the textile industry that people don’t know about is that it’s really a cutting-edge industry. There are so many things going on that are cutting-edge technologies ranging from a variety of health applications to fire retardants, to uniforms for the military and first responders. And people have this dated sense that it’s just yarns, or just some old-fashioned materials but it’s really cutting edge. I’ve seen that firsthand in facilities throughout the United States, including NCTO members.

I think it’s an industry that has a bright future. It has a lot of challenges, but those challenges are being tackled with the industry and in partnership with the government, and hopefully Congress will get behind some of these new initiatives. I’m hopeful for this industry to be the model for Made in USA manufacturing.

NCTO: What has been your biggest surprise about the industry—a preconceived idea you had about it that changed after your onsite factory tours and seeing firsthand what this industry is capable of innovating?

B.J.: I think it’s probably been the way in which the industry has a lot of flexibility and the way it has adapted. Many of these companies date from the 19th Century and yet they have innovated and changed their production techniques; they’ve changed their product lines and they are thriving today.

And we saw the ability of the flexibility during the PPE pandemic when they all got together– including some companies that compete against each other– to find a way to create Made in USA PPE during that national emergency. I think again these companies may be old, but they are experienced, they are innovative, and they are positioned for the future.

NCTO: While promoting policies that bolster Made in America and domestic production is critical, there is also a co-production chain with Central America and the region that is vitally important to our member companies. Can you speak to that as well as the importance of the yarn forward rule in CAFTA?

B.J.: I remember NCTO did a press release a few years ago just before Christmas, saying that when you are looking to buy gifts, don’t just look for Made in USA. Please look for Made in USA but when you see something made in Central America and it says Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, those products probably have a substantial amount from U.S. manufacturing—the fibers, yarns and fabrics.

And that is one of the reasons why we think the partnership in that co-production from U.S. domestic manufacturers and apparel manufacturing in Central America is so important. It is a potential way of our meeting some challenges we have right now with some of the supply chains to bring production closer to our shores.

There is no question that that Biden-Harris administration fully supports the yarn forward approach to rules of origin in our free trade agreements. We heard Ambassador [Katherine] Tai, say that in her remarks this morning. CAFTA-DR really is the cement that holds together the supply chain and yarn forward is the core of that.

Bill was referring to an exclusive pre-recorded message from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, which included the following remarks:

“Manufacturing is rebounding faster than it has in almost 40 years.  And a record 10.5 million small businesses were created in the last two years.

Trade plays an integral part in this new story.  

We’re incentivizing U.S.- and regionally-based production and reducing our reliance on products and inputs from distant shores, a vulnerability that the pandemic so clearly brought to light. 

We’re factoring in the impact of trade on rural and disadvantaged communities, including those in which many of you operate.

And through Vice President Harris’ Call to Action initiative, we’re challenging companies to invest in the textile sectors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

We’ve already seen over a $1 billion in new commitments to invest or source from the region, which will help to bolster the North American supply chain and address increased migration pressures from Central America.

A lack of economic opportunity is clearly one of the pressures behind migration, and we know that the textile and apparel sectors present significant opportunities for expanded employment, especially for women.  And as part of our commitment to ending the race to the bottom, we want those jobs to be in safe facilities, where basic worker rights are upheld. 

Not only will these investments and sourcing commitments help increase economic opportunities in those countries, they will also promote greater near-shoring and support American jobs that provide the yarns and fabrics that go into Central American apparel production. 

Make no mistake—we know how important the yarn-forward rules of origin are for the success of our trade partnership with the region.  Those rules provide the certainty that companies need to invest in and expand operations, which also creates good-paying jobs both in the United States and in Central America.” –Ambassador Katherine Tai

The administration’s support of a worker-centric trade agenda that supports domestic and regional manufacturing and workers and strives to create a level playing field to enable the industry to meet global challenges head on, is critical.

The U.S. textile industry faces a multitude of challenges, ranging from efforts by certain importers to weaken the CAFTA-DR rule of origin (which would adversely impact the U.S. and Central American co-production chain) to competing with imports in a global apparel supply chain tainted by forced labor apparel from Xinjiang, China.

But this industry has remained resilient for more than 100 years and will continue to contribute strongly to the U.S. economy by coordinating closely with USTR and other key agencies and its allies on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps fittingly, the final word should go to one of the lieutenants at USTR who worked behind the scenes to tirelessly address textile-related issues throughout his tenure.

From Bill Jackson’s post on LinkedIn:

“Nearly 39 years after taking my oath of office at the State Department, and 21 years after starting work at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, today is my last day of service with the federal government. I’ve traveled the world, helped set up UN peacekeeping operations in three countries, and negotiated trade agreements. Now I’m looking forward to new adventures, including volunteering in the community, learning new things, and spending more time with my family (whether they like it or not). Thanks to all who have supported and mentored me over the years.”

 

Sustainability & the Domestic Supply Chain: BASF


Seed Sustainability Marketing Manager (North America) Ray Daniels discusses how BASF‘s e3 sustainable cotton program offers partnerships & digital tools for farmers to bolster sustainable practices, ensure healthy seed & soil management & provide traceability for raw materials used to develop textile & apparel products.