On September 22, 2014, USFIA President Julia K. Hughes published an op-ed in the Sourcing Journal calling for a new approach to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations for apparel. She writes:

We hear over and over again from sourcing executives—most recently during our panel at SOURCING at MAGIC in August—that they don’t use free trade agreements and preference programs because the agreements don’t cover the products their customers want, and when they do, the rules are so complicated that it’s more time consuming and expensive than sourcing from China or Vietnam.

TPP is exciting because it could be a real game changer in this regard. It could address the fact that we don’t have many trade agreements with countries in Asia, where our members are already doing most of their business. TPP could create huge savings opportunities for U.S. fashion brands and retailers, allowing them to grow their businesses, hire more employees, and of course, pass along savings to consumers.

So, the bases are loaded—and the trade negotiators have to decide how to end the game.

If negotiators continue to push for strict yarn-forward rules of origin, long duty phase outs, and a limited short supply list that doesn’t address our industry’s needs, I don’t see brands and retailers utilizing the agreement.

But if negotiators take a new approach—with a flexible rule of origin, duty-free access on Day One, and an expanded short supply list that covers the products companies are really buying—then TPP could be a grand slam.

The full-oped is available on the Sourcing Journal website.