Friday, May 13, 2005

CAFTA "CAFTA, has also garnered support from an unlikely coalition of textile companies, farmers and food processors who see opportunity in the countries covered by the deal.

Between 2001 and 2004, North Carolina exports to the countries covered -- Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua -- grew by $678 million, the largest gain of any state, U.S. Department of Commerce data shows. The $1.7 billion worth of manufactured goods that the state sold to those nations last year makes North Carolina the region's third-largest trade partner, after Texas and Florida.

Allen Gant, president of Glen Raven, however, is among North Carolina textile makers who believe CAFTA will help safeguard what's left of the country's fabric industry. With the lifting of quotas on Chinese textile products this year, competition from that country has intensified. A trade accord with Central America will allow Gant's factories in Glen Raven, High Point and Norlina to continue to export fabric to factories in Central America that cut and sew it into clothes for exports back to the United States, he said.

Without it, Gant said, textile imports from low-cost countries in Asia will gradually erode production in the United States as well as in Central America. For the U.S. textile industry to survive, "there has to be an easy, efficient and competitive way to turn it into garment," Gant said.

The Bush administration recently promised to change language in CAFTA to protect exports of pocketing and lining material from the United States to Central America. On Monday, that prompted the trade group that Gant leads, the National Council of Textile Organizations, to endorse CAFTA. "
Again, I am a strong free-trade advocate with protection to retrain and support the unemployed. One disclosure, Mr. Gant's sister sat beside me in a lot of undergraduate classes in the last century.

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