The All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU-US Trade & Investment hosted a meeting on the Textile Sector and potential benefits and challenges from a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Tuesday, June 4th in Westminster Palace with the following panelists:
The UK Fashion and Textile Association, Chief Executive Officer John Miln
Community the Union Director Bev Bambrough
Johnstons of Elgin Managing Director Nick Bannerman
The meeting was attended by Parliamentarians from opposition and government Parties in both Houses and stakeholder and business representatives.
The US is the largest export market for the UK textiles and clothing sector outside of the European Union and the significant tariffs and other charges that are slapped on the trade make the US market prohibitive for many UK exporters – particularly for SMEs. The UKFT is supportive of a transatlantic trade agreement and wishes to see a removal of tariffs from day one. Miln also underlined the importance of doing away with technical barriers to trade, such as diverse labeling requirements, testing standards, manufacturing identification codes and other non-tariff barriers that give rise to widespread complexity in trading with the US. UK exports from the textile and clothing sector amounts to around £ 8.5 billion annually and the sector employs more than 150.000 people.
Community the Union also sees the potential for “massive benefits” to the UK textile and clothing industry from a TTIP agreement. Director Bambrough described the tariffs as prohibitive pointing to for example hosiery from Lancashire and footwear. The latter meet a 40% tariff in the US while US footwear meets a 17% tariff in the EU. She described the US market for the UK industry “as far from a level playing field”. She also stressed that non-tariff barriers obscure market access for SMEs in particular. Bambrough underlined that a TTIP agreement should aspire to be a gold standard for trade agreements and should in no way lead to a lowering of labour standards or worker rights. She pointed to several of the ILO conventions that the US is not party to. She also stressed that government procurement agreements in the TTIP should not limit governments’ ability to regulate.
Nick Bannerman of Johnstons of Elgin, the oldest – established in 1797 – and largest textile manufacturer in Scotland, underlined that the US market is where Johnstons wants to grow its sales in the future. He detailed the various tariff levels that cashmere products from the UK met when exporting to the US and pointed to the complexity of the regulations depending on the wool and wool blends used. A wool dress of a certain blend would face a 13.6 % tariff while pants with the same blend would face a 14% tariff. Sometimes rates are just odd, for example women’s wool coats face a tariff of 16.3% while men’s wool coats face tariffs of 19.7%. The significant tariff rates on many products shut UK producers out of the US market. He saw a potential for strong growth in UK exports to the US resulting from a TTIP. The resulting improvement in margins for the company could be reinvested for future growth and jobs.
The ensuing discussion focused on the potential importance of rules of origin for the textile and clothing trade and on Intellectual Property Rights protection for UK brands. The industry representatives did not see a major risk from increased imports from the US as a result of an agreement, as markets were already open and tariff free for numerous low cost suppliers.
The industry expressed that it had been kept fairly well informed of the progress of the negotiations through its membership in EURATEX, the European Textile Association, although it remains difficult to sort the important from the less-important in all the information provided.
for further information please contact:
John Healey MP, Chair of APPG on EU-US Trade & Investment
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Guto Bebb MP, Secretary of APPG on EU-US Trade & Investment
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Elisabeth Roderburg, Secretariat of APPG on EU-US Trade & Investment
TTIP Adviser BritishAmericanBusiness Eroderburg@babinc.org
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