There’s an important under reported initiative called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is an international free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. When the agreement is finalized it lets members export their product with lower fees, and essentially reduces large barriers to entry within member countries.
SOFREP recently read a report conducted by the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) that points out the US textile industry concerns over approval of the TPP, and the possibility of a congressional push to eliminate the Berry Amendment altogether.
Berry Amendment Excerpt
As of November 16, 2006, the law (Berry Amendment) restricts any funding appropriated or otherwise available to DoD from being used to buy the following end items, components, or materials unless they are wholly of US origin: An article or item of food; clothing; tents, tarpaulins, or covers; cotton and other natural fiber products; woven silk or woven silk blends; spun silk yarn for cartridge cloth; synthetic fabric or coated synthetic fabric (including all textile fibers and yarns that are for use in such fabrics); canvas products, or wool (whether in the form of fiber or yarn or contained in fabrics, materials, or manufactured articles)
-From the US Defense Procurement & Acquisition Policy website
The textile industry is very concerned that the TPP will specifically allow a backdoor for Vietnam (a TPP member country) to buy Chinese textiles and sell or integrate them as their own under the TPP.
Vietnam Textile Industry Snap Shot
- Employs 2.5 million workers, 10% of Vietnam’s industrial workforce
- World’s Eight Largest Garment Exporter – $16 billion
- Imported $10 billion in textile inputs, largest amount was fabric from China
- 2nd Largest Apparel Exporter to the U.S. – $7.6 billion (2012)
-Courtesy of the NCTO
An NCTO study estimates that more than half a million U.S. jobs are at risk if Vietnam sources textiles from China and sells on the U.S. market. The U.S. textile industry also has concerns that Senator McCain may push to eliminate the Berry Amendment altogether. McCain has long been an outspoken opponent of the “Buy American” requirement in past stimulus bills.
In a rare on-the-record vote on a contentious trade-related issue, the Senate defeated a provision sponsored by Sen. John McCain that would have stripped the “Buy American” requirement from the Stimulus Bill. –From Manufacturing and Technology News
While I tend to side with economist Milton Freidman when it comes to free-market economics, there is a place for “Made in the USA” where national security is concerned. We also cannot ignore that Chinese manufacturing has surpassed American capability on many levels (iPhone anyone?), but there’s a huge difference in U.S. ethics when it comes to delivery, and reliability. I’ve personally seen this on a small scale when sourcing soft goods from China. You don’t always get what you agreed to pay for.
A big concern is that the Chinese have historically had no issues about knocking off drugs or any other patented products. And if Vietnam is quietly sourcing Chinese materials, then there’s no consequences to the Chinese supplier. What’s to stop China from selling a bad batch of fire resistant (FR) material into the market? This could ultimately put American Aviators and Special Operations troops at risk.
It comes down to trust. Do we trust the Chinese to deliver quality textiles to the same level and standard that current US textile providers deliver them? The answer is no.
We look forward to your thoughts below. Part 2 coming soon.