In his June 17 Mailbag (“Export incentives make more sense,” Page 6), Greg Freimuth states, “Why this country continually focuses on offering incentives for imports from other countries rather than exports to other countries is mind-boggling as well as self-destructive.”
The textile community for years has waved a red flag in front of our government about the lack of sensibility in trade policies. As a 20-year veteran of textiles, I have watched manufacturers invest in the most innovative and efficient equipment to stay competitive, only to lose business to a strong-dollar policy and untold millions in funding to foreign countries for their “support” of anti-terrorist activity.
Industry statistics show that 228 U.S. textile manufacturing facilities closed in 2001, with a related loss of about 73,000 employees. This loss happened in one year. Previous years were equally dismal. Those numbers are enormous compared with job losses in the steel industry, but somehow they have not gotten the government's attention.
When many of the closed operations were put up for sale in an attempt to recover a percentage of the losses, who was at the door waiting to buy? China, Pakistan, India, Turkey, etc. And buy they have, only to move our noncompetitive operations back to their homelands. You saw very few U.S. firms looking for a deal because margins here have been sliced too thin to allow reinvestment.
What does textiles have to do with plastics? The plastics industry is getting the stuffing beat out of it in the same manner, and so is the steel industry, and just about every other type of core manufacturing that takes place in this country. I predict that the same terrible loss of 60-70 percent of manufacturing in your industry will happen, similar to what textiles experienced in the past two to three years, if the government continues its current agenda.
Oh, and what happens if you object, as the textile community did when the issue of transshipment by China came up? It was discovered that only a very small percentage of textile shipments were examined by customs to investigate transshipment violations. When this discovery became publicized, the textile industry was labeled as a “troublemaker” because the information could give terrorists ideas on how to smuggle weapons into the country. Just label them “men's pants,” and no one will bother to look!
I agree with Mr. Freimuth that our trade policies are mind-boggling and self-destructive, and eagerly look forward to seeing how other industries confront our government in hopes that we learn something new that could help the textile industry.
TNS Mills Inc.