When the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA) was founded in 1989, the nine, forward-thinking founding members specifically used the word “importers” in the association’s name. Why? These apparel brands and retailers were tired of Washington just talking about exports—and wanted to remind policymakers that imports are good, too, in our effort to eliminate the global apparel quota system. After all, these companies’ imports help create American jobs, expand the U.S. economy, and provide families with more options when they shop.

Our member companies were, and remain today, some of the most innovative job creators in the country, with enormous growth potential given the fact that Americans will always need to buy clothes and shoes. (And, in fact, many of us like to buy more clothes and shoes than we need!) 

Happily, in 2005, USA-ITA was successful in eliminating those quotas that burdened our industry and hindered our members’ abilities to create jobs—not to mention, produce affordable clothes and shoes for American families.

Since then, the industry has rapidly globalized and our members rely on complex global value chains so they can produce the best product, at the best price, and thus remain competitive and grow. And today, there are endless possibilities for sourcing fashion products. For example, a company might choose yarn from China, fabric from Mexico, and a sewing factory in Vietnam to produce a garment that was wholly designed and marketed in New York City, San Francisco, or Columbus. Increasingly, that garment is not only shipped to the United States, but also shipped to stores in Europe, Asia, and South America, too, where American-designed fashion is highly sought after.

Despite the globalization of the industry and value chains, however, barriers to trade remain and new challenges arise every day for U.S.-based fashion brands and retailers that do business globally. The association has evolved with our members to address these barriers and challenges, which led us to rebrand as the United States Fashion Industry Association last year.  (You can read more about that project, and why we chose our new name, here.)

In our view, there’s no reason why imports of clothing, shoes, and fashion accessories should be subject to the outdated, protectionist, exorbitantly high tariffs. According to the International Trade Commission, the average duty rate for our industry is currently 12.2 percent, with peak duties as high as 36 percent. This is in stark contrast to the average duty rate for all manufactured imports, which is just 2.8 percent. It seems more than a little unfair, especially since we all have to wear clothes.

The fashion industry has always known that imports work for America, so the United States Fashion Industry Association is proud to again support Imports Work for America Week, an initiative by a coalition of organizations and companies that depend on access to imports to compete globally. FromMay 5-9, 2014, we’ll be working with the coalition to promote how imports work for jobs, families, and manufacturing in the United States and economic development in our trading partner countries around the world.

It’s clear that in the fashion industry, imports work to create jobs—after all, a recent study showed that, on average, 70 percent of the final retail price for apparel represents value added in the United States. These imports also work for American families, who have access to affordable, high-quality, and even fashionable clothing, shoes, accessories, and home products. And, these imports work for economic development, as our members work to source in a socially responsible way, especially by creating opportunities for women in developing countries. 

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter all week long for more insight on how imports work for America, and visit www.importsworkforamerica.com to learn more about the coalition.