Unifi is celebrating the correction of language used in a trade agreement between the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic. Officials say the language once led to the loss of business and jobs for the past eight years, but now it’s been fixed.
The changes took effect on Oct. 13, and officials say this could eventually mean that Unifi will have more jobs to offer.
The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) was signed into law in 2003. Some outdated language used in the agreement allowed the use of non-originating sewing thread in the assembly of textiles and apparel. This led to manufacturers using lesser quality threads from Asia.
Franciso Sanchez, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, was on hand at a press conference held atUnifi on Oct. 9 to announce these changes. Sanchez tried to explain the CAFTA-DR agreement and the changes being made in layman’s terms.
“We entered into a trade agreement with countries in Central America and the Dominican Republic several years ago,” Sanchez said. “It was an effort to try to increase two way trade; more American goods could get sold to those countries and more goods from there could come to our country and by doing so the hope was to create more jobs.
“As part of that deal there is a provision called yarn forward; what that meant was that if you were going to make a garment in any one of these countries you could continue to enjoy duty free entry into our market or any of the other markets as long as you used yarn from one of these countries that formed the agreement,” Sanchez continued.
Sanchez said that a loophole was discovered and it became an increasing threat to U.S. manufacturers and basically undermined the original purpose of the agreement. Sanchez said that President Obama directed his trade negotiators to make the necessary amendments to the agreement to protect American jobs.
“Anytime you amend a treaty you then have to go back to congress because congress voted on the original treaty,” Sanchez said. “So now we’ve changed what the congress voted on and we not only have to negotiate with our partners in Central America and the Dominican Republic but we had to take this new, amended treaty and get it approved by the congress. It was kind of a two-step process. We got the first part done about a year ago and the second part we just got done this summer.”
Sanchez said that Unifi played an instrumental role in bringing the loophole to the government’s attention and making sure that it was amended.
“Bill Jasper and Jane Johnson from Unifi were frequent callers to the Office of US Trade Representative, Capitol Hill and of course to my office,” Sanchez said. “I was delighted to get those calls, and I’m delighted that you were all such a vocal advocate to Capitol Hill and my colleagues in sister agencies. I knew that you were fighting for American business, for American workers and for American jobs. That is our fight as well.”
Bill Jasper, chairman and CEO of Unifi, said that he is very happy to see this correction made and that he anticipates new jobs being created once the company is able to bounce back from the losses it suffered from the mistake.
“I think what this change does is it basically brings the law back to what was originally intended, which was to promote growth in manufacturing in this region and not growth of subsidized cheap yarns coming out of Asia,” Jasper said. “That’s the most important change here. We’re going to be able to grow our sewing trade business because CAFTA is growing as a region. Production in textiles is actually growing in CAFTA which means that we have the opportunity to grow and when we grow we add jobs.”
Sanchez said that this change shows a glimmer of hope for the American economy. He says that this change is one of many that Americans will begin to notice as the economy starts to pick back up.
“These fixes to this agreement are very good for business and they’re very good for jobs,” Sanchez said. “They are also very, very good for our overall national economy which is already gaining momentum under the work that the Obama administration has done.”
After the press conference Sanchez was taken on a tour through Unifi’s Yadkinville T-5 plant so he could see the manufacturer’s work first hand.
“I‘m like a kid in a candy store,” Sanchez said. “I love manufacturing, so to be able to walk through a plant, particularly a plant that is so innovative, it is really exciting and it gives me great optimism for our country when I see a company like Unifi that is not only following sustainable manufacturing processes but developing sustainable products. The whole recycling products and using recycling products to make their Repreve thread line is just very exciting. It makes me very proud.”
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