By Stephanie Lester, Vice President, International Trade
Job creation is a hot topic in Washington, and lawmakers continually discuss exports as the key to job creation. This mindset is outdated and there is not enough focus on the positive impact that imports have on American job growth. In today’s economically interconnected world, successful companies maximize their competitiveness by utilizing the most efficient operations around the world. As a result, it is too simplistic to say either a product is Made in the USA or is imported.
A report commissioned by RILA and other members of the TPP Apparel Coalition titled, Analyzing the Value Chain for Apparel Designed in the United States and Manufactured Overseas, examines where and how American workers contribute to the value and global production of apparel. It’s clear in the report what American retailers have long known to be true—apparel imports are responsible for millions of quality white-collar and blue-collar U.S. jobs across the economic spectrum. Nearly three million American workers are employed in the ideation and orchestration of the apparel global value chain—research, design, production, marketing, distribution, retail and support to the final customer. These American jobs rely on trade and to be successful, U.S. trade policy should bolster, not inhibit, global value chains and the American jobs they create.
The report, which studied a variety of apparel categories and companies, also reinforces findings in other recent studies such as a value chain statistical database that was launched jointly by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organization.
The first release from the OECD-WTO Trade in Value-Add (TiVA) database offers new insights on how global value chains impact trade relationships and business activity. The initiative reinforces the reality that “the goods and services we buy are composed of inputs from various countries around the world. However, the flows of goods and services within these global production chains are not always reflected in conventional measures of international trade.”
In the changing face of global trade, it is time for U.S. trade policy to reflect the commercial reality that globally-competitive American apparel producers and retailers have embraced international trade and have created global value chains that employ millions of American workers and also increasingly depend on the free flow of goods across borders. Exports are not the only way to create jobs, imports matter too.