Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 25

THE PANDEMIC'S

I MPACT ON TRAD E
companies that have survived the
pandemic have seen their business
volumes dramatically decrease. "
The tariffs had also extended lead
times and created shortages, says
Jeff Bennett, president and owner of
Focus Sales & Marketing Group LLC,
a Tigerville, S.C.-based company
specializing in nonwoven and woven
fabrics and associated supplies. He
explains that when the tariffs hit, a
" massive influx " of orders returned
from overseas to U.S. manufacturers.
In some cases, this helped fill " idle
capacity, " but it also sometimes
restricted how much customers
could order.
The pandemic exacerbated the
concerns, with fabric imports limited
because of shutdowns in countries
of manufacture, Bennett says. Then,
the exports of products that could
be utilized for personal protective
equipment (PPE) within those
countries were prohibited. At the
same time, U.S. manufacturers were
contending with an influx of PPErelated orders.
" The non-PPE markets were
starting to recover from the U.S.
shutdown, and products that were
normally imported were now
thrust upon the capacity of U.S.
manufacturing, which was already
full, " he says. " U.S. manufacturing
capacity having been filled has forced
customers to forecast and issue orders
into 2021, or look for alternative
materials or other suppliers. "
Inventory shortages haven't hit
every supplier. Scott Fisher, president
and CEO of Fisher Textiles Inc., says
his company didn't experience any
related supply chain issues. Located in
Matthews, N.C., the company supplies
fabrics for digital printing, offering
a range of polyester knit and woven
fabrics prepared for dye sublimation

Sara Beatty is principal of Whitehaven Trade Advisors, Washington, D.C.;
Auggie Tantillo is principal of SRG & Associates in Wilmington, N.C. Both
companies provide government consulting services and trade analysis to
U.S. manufacturers and associations. They work with the United States
Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI) and the Narrow Fabrics Institute (NFI)
divisions of IFAI on their government relations activities to ensure that
trade agreement rules and programs offer U.S. manufacturers sufficient
protection from foreign competitors. We spoke to Beatty and Tantillo about
the current state of the textile supply chain and what may be ahead.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF U.S. TRADE POLICIES
IN GENERAL ON U.S. TEXTILE MANUFACTURERS?
BEATTY: U.S. textile manufacturers compete on one of the most unbalanced
economic playing fields of any industrial manufacturing segment. U.S. trade
policies over the last several decades have contributed to the problem by
offering expanded access to the U.S. market while failing to secure reciprocal
opportunities for U.S. exports or to appropriately respond to unfair foreign
trade practices. As the ever-expanding U.S trade deficit in textiles and
apparel indicates, the U.S. industry continues to be undermined by our global
competitors-namely, Asian countries that often grant limited access to their
own markets-that use every unfair advantage to grab market share at the
expense of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
TANTILLO: Buy-American laws like the Berry Amendment and the Kissell
Amendment strengthen the domestic manufacturing base. However,
continuous work has to be done preserving Berry each year in the National
Defense Authorization Act process. And outside of Berry and Kissell, the
rules are very weak. There are over 100 countries that essentially qualify as
" American " under the Buy American Act that applies to textile purchases by
agencies outside of the DoD [Department of Defense], the Transportation
Security Administration and the Coast Guard within DHS. [Department of
Homeland Security].

HOW MIGHT THE PANDEMIC AFFECT AMERICA'S
GLOBAL TRADE RELATIONSHIPS?
BEATTY: Under a " Buy American " Executive Order issued in early August,
the U.S. Trade Representative [USTR] has been tasked with renegotiating
our international obligations under the WTO [World Trade Organization]
and free-trade agreements to exclude essential medicines and medical
countermeasures and inputs, including PPE, from the list of products where
we grant foreign manufacturers equivalent access to domestic procurements
as U.S. manufacturers. As of this writing, USTR is waiting on this product list
to start the renegotiation process. Assuming textile-based PPE is included
and there is follow-through with the initiative, the executive order could result
in more meaningful buy-American preferences for domestic-made products
versus the hollowed-out version of " Buy American " that exists today.
TANTILLO: This is a critical time to be at the table advocating with Congress for
your interests. While the format will likely be a little different, take advantage
of programming offered by IFAI like the USIFI/NFI Annual Advocacy Day in the
spring to have your voice heard in the D.C. policy arena.
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Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021

Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - Cover 1
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 1
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Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 3
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