Sen. Gordon Smith, R-OR, plans to introduce a bill that would remove tariffs on products such as textiles imported from a host of struggling nations, including Sri Lanka, according to a report in The Oregonian yesterday.
Smith, along with a coalition of apparel companies and several nonprofits that fight poverty, support the bill because it would expand U.S. trade with these countries and boost their economies.
The idea came about last year in anticipation of the Jan. 1 expiration of international quotas on textile imports, which let countries such as China export clothing without limit. Sri Lanka was not on the list of affected nations at that time. However, after the December tsunami that devastated many Indian Ocean nations, it has been added.
There are now 15 countries on the list, including Cambodia and Afghanistan.
Apparel is one of Sri Lanka's top industries and largest employers. Several big-name catalogers source from there, including Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew and Cabela's, according to the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association.
Though Sri Lanka's apparel factories are mostly inland and were affected only minimally by the tsunami, the damage to roads, ports, electric lines and water supplies was extensive and could have long-term ramifications for the country's apparel industry and companies that export products from the island nation.
Because apparel was one of the few industrial sectors not destroyed by the tsunami — tourism and fishing took a much harder hit — the trade breaks would cushion the economic effect of the tsunami's aftermath.
Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters