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Thinking For The Future

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, September 5, 2005

It's almost unbelievable — but it happened!

The United States government finally has acknowledged — albeit somewhat reluctantly — that we're doing business in the 21st century.

For the textiles world, both home furnishings of all types from fabrics to manufactured product as well as apparel, involvement by the U.S. government in recent years regarding exports deteriorated to the point of almost non-existence because of some archaic regulations.

This country once had prestigious presence at major home furnishings fabric and product shows around the world — spaces that were magnets for customers from all parts of the globe.

As the shift in production moved from the United States to emerging, developing countries — a natural step in the economic progression of development over centuries — the American persona at these shows slipped to a point of embarrassment.

The reason?

The 51 percent rule that required companies exhibiting in U.S.-sponsored space to certify that what they were showing was at least 51 percent American-made — not American designed, speced, distributed, sold etc. — but American made.

Some of the more vocal American pavilion supporters expressed their views about the 51 percent rule to higher ups at Heimtex this past January, many still loyal to the U.S. presence that they continued in the U.S. pavilions despite the cutbacks in services and amenities.

Apparently, their arguments paid off. The 51 percent rule has been radically amended and will enable American supplier companies to avail themselves of Department of Commerce assistance even if their products are made offshore — but they meet other specific specs.

The change was in Brussels this week, but it can't help but be a positive for Department of Commerce activities down the road.

Many in the American home furnishings fabric business are looking anew at the export business. The ability to be able to draw on the knowledge bank at Commerce could be a major plus in their businesses under the new rules.

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