Fashion Intel & Analysis

            The Federal advisory committee system, including a large number of committees that advise U.S. trade officials on trade negotiations and a broad range of issues related to importing and exporting, appears headed toward major changes under the Obama Administration. 

 

On September 23, the White House special counsel for ethics and government reform announced that he had directed executive agencies and departments to refrain from appointing federally registered lobbyists to federal agency advisory boards and commissions once their current terms expire.  Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk stated that he intended to follow that directive with respect to the advisory committees with which USTR works.  Under the charter of those committees, current appointments will expire in February 2010. 

 

The Cotton Board, which is charged with overseeing the cotton research and promotion program and whose membership is composed of producer and importer representatives (and one consumer representative) appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is also presumed to be affected by the White House announcement.

 

            NCTO issued a strongly worded press release blasting the White House decision, charging that it “disenfranchises textile workers” because it will preclude trade association executives, who lobby and therefore are registered lobbyists, from representing their members on advisory committees.  The concern is that small and medium sized enterprises in particular do not have the personnel and resources to participate in advisory committees directly.  NCTO urged the White House to rescind its decision.

 

            Alternatively, there are indications that some company and association executives who are currently registered lobbyists are reconsidering whether they need to be registered.  Some might de-register.  Under the U.S. lobbying laws, registration is required only if a person spends at least 20 percent of his or her time in a single quarter lobbying plus has at least two contacts with “covered officials” during that period. (Two lobbying contacts alone does not trigger a registration requirement.)  Covered officials include anyone in the U.S. Congress, executive branch officials (such as Assistant Secretaries of Departments and higher, the leaders and their deputies of independent agencies), all agency commissioners and anyone in the Executive Office of the President, which includes the White House and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (as well as the Office of Management and Budget and other Presidential offices).

 

Company executives who come to Washington for “lobby days” on an occasional basis are unlikely to be subject to the registration requirement, even if they have many contacts during those visits because it is unlikely that lobbying accounts for 20 percent of their time over the quarter period.  Assuming a 40 hour work week and 13 weeks in a quarter, or 520 hours, a person would have to spend at least 104 hours actually lobbying and preparing to lobby or assisting someone to prepare or plan a lobbying effort. Testifying or preparing written comments in response to a Federal Register notice does not count as lobbying.

 

            There is some movement afoot to obtain Congressional action to reverse the Administration decision, although it is unclear whether that effort will gain traction or be successful.  Assuming that the new policy is implemented, the change may mean that the Administration will soon seek out new members for these committees.   

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U.S. Government officials have issued a call for companies to contribute unused textile machinery to help expand production opportunities in Haiti.  The request follows an investor conference held in Haiti last week featuring former President Bill Clinton, who serves as the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti

 

Companies with unused machinery, or who know suppliers who may have machinery available, should contact USA-ITA if you are interested or if you would like more information.    

In this TDM:


Commerce Requests Comments on Peru Textile and Apparel Safeguard Procedures

In today’s Federal Register, the Department of Commerce publishes a request for comments on the proposed procedures for considering requests and comments on textile and apparel safeguard actions on imports from Peru.

The notice describes the procedures proposed by the Department of Commerce by which U.S. firms would petition the government for relief from textile and apparel imports from Peru under the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA entered into effect on February 1, 2009. The deadline for comments is August 2nd.

Companies may ask for relief under the safeguard provision if, "as a result of the elimination of a customs duty under the Agreement, a Peruvian textile or apparel article is being imported into the United States in such increased quantities, in absolute terms or relative to the domestic market for that article, and under such conditions as to cause serious damage or actual threat thereof to a U.S. industry producing a like or directly competitive article." Companies may file a request for safeguard action with the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA).

In its request, the company must provide evidence that supports its claim that textile or apparel imports from Peru are damaging -- or threatening to damage -- a U.S. industry. If CITA determines that the requisite information has been provided, it will publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments. Interested parties will have thirty days to provide feedback. CITA will make a determination within sixty days of the close of the comment period. If CITA cannot yet reach a determination, they will announce this in the Federal Register and set a new deadline.

If the CITA determination is affirmative, "CITA may provide tariff relief to a U.S. industry to the extent necessary to remedy or prevent serious damage or actual threat thereof and to facilitate adjustment by the domestic industry to import competition." The relief would enter into effect that the CITA affirmative determination is published in the Federal Register.


Owens Introduces Bill to Increase De Minimis Limit to $1,000

On May 25, Representative William Owens (D-NY) introduced H.R. 5375, the Customs De Minimis Adjustment Act of 2010, co-sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). The legislation changes U.S. tariff law to increase the value of imports that can be classified as 'de minimis' from $200 to $1,000. De minimis imports enter the U.S. duty-free and are not subject to Customs procedures. The press release announcing the introduction of the bill says the current de minimis amount has not been raised to account for inflation in seventeen years. Owens says that raising the de minimis ceiling will promote economic growth, particularly along the Canadian border and in his district in upstate New York.


WEBINAR: What the Haiti HELP Act Can Do For You

June 4, 2010
12:00 Noon -1:00 PM EDT
FREE for USA-ITA members | $50 non-members

Congress just passed a much expanded version of trade preference legislation for Haiti, called the Haiti Economic Lift Program, or HELP Act. The bill was signed into law by President Obama on May 24th.

The HELP Act expands the preferences for the Haitian apparel and textile sector under the HOPE program put in place in 2006 and expanded in 2008.

Haiti's trade benefits are the most generous in the Western Hemisphere, and a great deal of attention is being focused on sourcing opportunities from Haiti. These include the use of fabrics from anywhere in the world under knit and woven TPLs and a generous wholly assembled rule and other important rule of origin opportunities. Haiti is also implementing a world class labor compliance program under the ILO's Better Work program which will provide enhanced brand protection and reduce buyer audit costs for factories in Haiti.

You can now hear about the details of the legislation and the specific sourcing opportunities it may provide from the experts that represented the Government of Haiti in negotiating this legislation.

Presenters: Ron Sorini and Andrew Samet of Sorini, Samet & Associates have represented the Government of Haiti for the past four years through the development of the HOPE and HELP legislation, and they will provide a summary of the opportunities for sourcing from Haiti, and be available to answer any questions.
John Pellegrini, USA-ITA's customs counsel, will also be available to answer questions during this Webinar.

Click here to Register