09/08/2011: SAVE Our Industries Act Op-ed
Ambassador calls for action on important legislation
There is now a critical bill pending for action in the U.S. Congress that will create jobs and strengthen Philippine-U.S. relations. The legislation is called the SAVE Our Industries Act (S.1244/H.R. 2387), and is the most important economic initiative involving the United States and the Philippines in a half century.
The SAVE Act is strongly supported by President Benigno S. Aquino III. The SAVE Act means jobs for Americans and jobs for Filipinos. It is a win-win proposal for both of our countries. Congressmen Manny Pacquiao certainly knows what a winner looks like, and he has given his strong support to the SAVE Act also.
But for the SAVE Act to pass the U.S. Congress, we also need your support.
It is my great honor to serve as Philippine Ambassador to the United States. As I have traveled across the United States in recent months, I have met with many members of the Filipino-American community and have been encouraged by the deep and unshakeable ties between our two countries.
We have been through much together in the last century, and I believe we will do much together in the century to come.
The SAVE Act is an important opportunity to do something important together.
The SAVE Act will create a new foundation upon which to expand commercial relationship and trade between the United States and the Philippines.
Our trade relationship is one of balance and mutual benefit - and we can do more to build upon it. That is precisely the vision of the SAVE Act, and why we think it essential that the U.S. Congress pass it.
The SAVE Act recognizes a simple but important potential synergy between the economies of the Philippines and the United States. The United States still has an important textile fabric manufacturing sector, but no longer produces large quantities of finished garments, with most imported from China, Vietnam and other countries in Asia and Latin America. The Philippines, meanwhile, is very good at sewing finished garments but, unlike most other Asian garment producing countries, does not have a significant textile fabric sector. Thus, the Philippines must import fabrics from other countries to sew garments.
The proposition of the SAVE Act is very simply that if the Philippines imports U.S. fabrics – instead of fabrics from other countries in Asia – then makes them into garments, that these garments can enter the U.S. market duty-free. A second provision would allow a limited number of garment categories to enter the U.S. duty-free that have used fabrics from a third country when such fabrics are not made in the United States. This framework, often used in other U.S. trade programs, would promote both industries and job creation on both sides of the Pacific.
Most of us know someone who works or has worked in apparel manufacturing in the Philippines. It has been a strong industry for the Philippines and at one time employed almost 800,000 people. We are known globally for providing the highest quality needlework and competing to produce for quality brands such as Ann Taylor and Polo Ralph Lauren – companies that would like to remain producing in the Philippines and are also doing a lot to support the SAVE Act.
It has been unfortunate that, like the U.S. garment and textile industry, our garment manufacturers have increasingly faced formidable competition from other Asian producers. Our garment employment is now only 150,000 and our garment sales in the United States have fallen by 50 percent in the last five years.
The SAVE Act would reverse this trend.
By opening a new export market in the Philippines for U.S. textiles, the U.S. industry could see a rise in production to supply hundreds of millions of dollars of yarns and fabrics to the Philippines. The duty reduction will provide a competitive incentive to return production of garments to the Philippines, bringing back the capacity and tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost.
U.S. consumers would also been given an opportunity to buy products made with U.S. fabrics in the Philippines – and at better prices!
This bill is truly an opportunity for both countries to win. All that must happen is for the U.S. Congress to decide to say “yes” to the pending SAVE Act bill. The united and engaged voices of those Filipino-Americans that understand the importance of this relationship can make the difference.
To join the effort and to make your voice heard, please visit the website www.saveourindustriesact.org. Here you will find further informational material and links to allow you to easily write to your Members of Congress and Senators to seek their co-sponsorship of the SAVE Act, and also how to request meetings with them for the same purpose. An opportune time to meet with legislators is while Congress is in recess through the Labor Day Holiday on September 5th.
Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States