From the cotton gins in Scotland County, to the mills in Cabarrus County, North Carolina's Eighth District has a history rich in the textile industry. For many decades, our district thrived as the heart of the industry, bringing economic prosperity and reliable jobs to our communities. But bad trade deals have devastated the textile industry in the South. As evidenced by the closed textile mills, vacant furniture warehouses, and abandoned plants throughout our community, the manufacturing strength of our district has been diminished by discriminatory trade practices.
The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, with Vietnam and 10 other Asia-Pacific nations. It would be the largest free-trade agreement ever, including countries that make up about 40 percent of world trade. The TPP is now in the eighteenth round of negotiations and has reached a pivotal stage regarding textiles and apparel. As your Representative, I am deeply concerned with the impact these negotiations will have on our industries and economy here at home. My colleagues and I in the House Textile Caucus are closely monitoring how the TPP proceeds to ensure our textile interests are represented. Any free trade agreement must protect vital North Carolina business.
I have very serious concerns about a provision within the TPP that would allow Vietnam to source textiles from China and export finished garments to the United States tax-free. If adopted, the provision would cost more than 500,000 U.S. textile-related jobs and put more than 1.5 million jobs in the textile and apparel supply chains in the Western Hemisphere and Africa in jeopardy. I sent a letter with nearly 170 of my House colleagues to United States Trade Representative Michael Froman expressing this concern. Like many of you, I understand the importance of fair and commonsense trade agreements that will help ensure our continued success, and strongly believe that the terms of the TPP must be fairly constructed, that long standing and established rules should not be eroded, and that a final agreement must preserve and create investment in U.S. manufacturing and jobs.
Last week, President Obama met with the President of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, in Washington to discuss the trade agreement. My North Carolina colleagues, Rep. Howard Coble and Rep. Patrick McHenry, joined me in authoring a letter to President Obama, urging him to raise the issue of fair trade with Mr. Sang during the visit. While we live in a complex 21st century economy that demands global trade, we must ensure that any proposed trade agreements include strong provisions that create a level playing field and facilitate fair trade.
As many expect the TPP agreement to be finalized by the end of the year, I will continue to demand a thoughtful and open dialogue that focuses on keeping American trade prosperous and successful for years to come. We need to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in the global market while promoting transparency and fairness. My responsibility to do what I believe is right for our communities and North Carolina is not something I approach lightly when addressing trade issues.
Until next week,
Member of Congress (NC-08)