ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Philippines behind US garment bill
Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio is in the United States to meet with American legislators to generate more support for the Save our Industries (SAVE) Act. Passage of the SAVE Act would allow certain Philippine-made clothing that uses US-made fabric to enter America duty-free, while those made of US yarn would come in at reduced tariffs. The proposed legislation would also allow duty-free entry to the US of some Philippine-made apparel regardless of the source of textile.
"We will convince American congressmen and senators that the Philippines is a worthy partner in the Save our Industries Act," Panlilio said last week.
Panlilio said existing garments manufacturers have committed to expand their operations once SAVE Act is enacted. Firms that closed down have also expressed interest to resume operations when the bill is approved, he said.
The trade official said time is of the essence as the US Congress would soon go on recess in preparation for the midterm elections scheduled in November.
"Hopefully, SAVE Act gets approved this week," he said. "The chances are very good."
Panlilio said many Filipino-Americans, including Filipina fashion designer Josie Natori, Silicon Valley venture entrepreneur Diosdado "Dado" Banatao, and New York-based industrialist and philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, are actively campaigning and seeking their respective legislators' support for the SAVE Act.
"We want SAVE Act to be passed so that we would become competitive against other countries exporting garments to the US. We are losing out to China in terms of textile pricing," Panlilio said.
The garments industry was once one of the Philippines' leading export sectors, comprising about a fifth of merchandise shipments between the 1960s up to the 1990s.
But the emergence of China as a low-cost manufacturing hub and the elimination of the quota system by World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements reduced Philippine garments exports as well as its workforce to $1 billion annually and 200,000 people, respectively, or only a third of revenues and employment during the industry's heyday.
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