We append below two statements from the main groups that have been working tirelessly for the passage of the AGOA Third Country Fabric bill, S.3326 in the Senate and HR.5986 in the House today. We in the New Jersey/New York region must nevertheless thank Senator Robert Menendez for not insisting on attaching his amendment to the S.3326. He seemed to have listened to our calls. Here’s how “The Hill” described his action on the Senate debate on Tuesday:
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he had concerns about the impact of duty-free imports on U.S. textile workers.
“I believe that trade is important … but at the same time I am concerned about retaining the cotton and wool trust funds,” Menendez said on the floor Tuesday. “I’m just making sure our trade is not only free but fair.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) assured Menendez that he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would work with him to extend the wool and cotton trust fund, which ensures that U.S. companies don’t have a disincentive for using U.S. grown cotton and wool. Currently, importing cotton from other countries, such as China, is duty-free. Reid used the example of the U.S. Olympic uniforms being made in China to save money as an example of why the current situation is a problem.
“I support the wool and cotton trust funds,” Reid said. “It’s such a shame that our athletes are over there competing in the Olympics are in clothes made in China … I’m happy to work with Sen. Menendez and Chairman Baucus, and we’ll work on this commitment this year.”
That pledge to reinstate the cotton and wool trust funds this year was enough for Menendez to say he would not object to the trade bill.
AGOA Action Coalition and the Whitaker Group Applaud AGOA Third Country Fabric Renewal
The AGOA Action Coalition and the Whitaker Group applaud the United States Congress on today’s renewal of the Third Country Fabric provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). We are truly grateful for the efforts of our friends and allies, both on and off Capitol Hill, who have worked together over the past year in a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation to make this a reality.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this provision for the future of the US-Africa partnership. Over the course of many years and previous renewals, the Third Country Fabric provision has singlehandedly supported hundreds of thousands of jobs across Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the process created a burgeoning apparel industry in the continent. The sheer scale of the development dividends on the ground from this provision has been impressive. Moreover, the measure has provided a clear win-win for US and African firms, as greater economic interdependence with Africa is now leading to increased US exports to the region.
The renewal of the Third Country Fabric has come not a moment too soon, as we had already begun to witness a decline in apparel orders due to the uncertainty of this provision’s renewal. We are now confident that the industry can begin to rebuild and consolidate over the next six months, and continue to grow over the coming years.
We applaud the many champions in the US Congress whose commitment and compassion for the people of Africa have been instrumental in moving this measure – including Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and all additional cosponsors of HR5986 and S.3326 and their staff. We also applaud key members of the Obama Administration, without whose efforts this effort could not have succeeded – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis, Assistant USTR for Africa Florie Liser, Assistant USTR for Textiles Gail Strickler, Assistant USTR for Congressional Affairs Mac Campbell, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Economic Affairs Mike Froman, among many others. We especially applaud Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for her personal dedication to Africa and AGOA and her important and timely visit to the region. Finally, we will always remember and deeply appreciate the leadership of the late Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), one of the most significant champions for Africa in the history of the US Congress.
We also applaud the many partners who have helped to move this legislation, including the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, the ONE Campaign, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Corporate Council on Africa, the African Coalition for Trade, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the Constituency for Africa, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, Schneidman & Associates, Manchester Trade, and so many other industry groups, private companies and individuals who have devoted their time, energy and passion to advocating for Africa’s continued growth and development.
We look forward to working with our friends and colleagues over the next several years to enhance and extend AGOA beyond 2015 and deepening the US-Africa partnership over the next decade.
ONE Applauds Congressional Passage of Provision to Boost US-Africa Trade
WASHINGTON – ONE welcomes today’s passage in the House and Senate of an extension to a key provision of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) that increases mutually beneficial trade ties between the U.S. and Africa and promises to lift millions of people out of poverty and into employment and prosperity.
By giving African manufacturers the freedom to purchase fabric from outside the continent to sew garments for export to the U.S. market, AGOA’s Third Country Fabric provision will save approximately 300,000 textile and apparel-related jobs which support 10 million people. It also saves U.S. taxpayers $5 million.
“We are grateful to Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sander Levin (D-Mich.) for their strong leadership on this measure,” said ONE US Executive Director Tom Hart. “ONE also applauds Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for their commitment to ensuring that this important provision did not expire.”
The Third Country Fabric provision accounts for more than 95 percent of AGOA apparel trade, which last year accounted for about $900 million. It has had a transformative effect on the economies of countries like Lesotho, Swaziland, Mauritius, Kenya and Ethiopia. Today’s vote also means that the newly independent country of South Sudan is now eligible to benefit from AGOA.
U.S. industry associations that supported the measure include: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce; The American Apparel & Footwear Association; The Emergency Committee for American Trade; The National Retail Federation; The National Foreign Trade Council; The Retail Industry Leaders Association; and The U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.
ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization co-founded by Bono and backed by more than 3 million people from around the world dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. For more information please visit www.ONE.org.