KORUS may bring challenges to specialty fabrics industry
At a time when the U.S. is facing record unemployment, a group of specialty fabrics manufacturers is engaging in everything short of a bake sale in Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the latest fight for some of the last jobs still standing.
Their most recent free trade versus fair trade confrontation involves the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (commonly known as KORUS) and the United States Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI), a division of the Industrial Fabrics Association International, which represents nearly 2,000 member companies. USIFI is currently leading an educational campaign on the Hill to keep the specialty fabrics industry's U.S. factories open and save jobs which will be bartered away with the terms of the KORUS agreement. Currently specialty fabrics represent a world market estimated at $123 billion in 2010, $29 billion of that in the U.S.
Congressman Larry Kissell (NC-08), one of the specialty fabrics industry's allies in Washington, D.C., spoke with the USIFI group about putting a stop to KORUS. "No one feels the effects of our nation's trade policies more directly than American manufacturers, especially these leaders of our textile industry," said Kissell. "For far too long, bad trade deals and misguided Washington policies have ravaged our economy, shipping jobs overseas and furthering our mounting trade deficits."
Specialty fabrics are a segment of the domestic textile manufacturing base that has not only survived decades of bad trade policies and relentless import pressures but which now thrives. Also known as industrial textiles or technical textiles, specialty fabrics keep first responders safe in fire-resistant protection suits and anti-ballistic vests.
The high-tech flexible materials also protect the environment: They provide containment of toxic wastes, ensure quality drinking water and prevent shoreline erosion. In addition, these multi-layered composite products are used in new pavement technology to rebuild our nation's vulnerable infrastructure, as well as in the lightweight, ultra-strong fabrics deployed in life-saving airbags, and the shade provided in playground structures that keep our children away from the harmful rays of the sun.
A group of 24 USIFI members met with Congressman Kissell and more than 45 other Congressional offices on the Hill over several days to highlight the effects of U.S. trade policies on specialty fabrics and on American manufacturing overall. These business and plant owners are doing the cold call grunt work that is necessary to make the voice of the manufacturers (or "job providers") heard inside the Beltway. That voice is saying: "Stop signing free trade agreements that close our plants and cause the loss of even more jobs."
Kissell is unique in his keen understanding of what's at stake: "No brand is better than Made in the USA, and I will work to defeat any trade deal that offshores American jobs and hinders our ability tobetter export our top-of-the-line goods. The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement uses the same flawed model of CAFTA and NAFTA, and simply isn't right for the people of my district. I was glad to hear directly from these industry leaders on what will best help them increase their exports and create more American jobs."