Northern Mariana Islands

The Bureau of National Affairs in an article entitled, “Trade Associations Oppose Bill Aimed At Textiles From Northern Mariana Islands,” reports that The National Retail Association, joined by three other trade associations, September 5 urged members of US Congress to oppose a measure that would subject products made in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to import duties and quotas.
The legislation, known as the “Made in the USA Label Defense Act,” (S. 922, H.R. 1621, also known as “The Franks Bill”) also would bar use of the “Made in the USA” label on CNMI products. Supporters of the legislation have alleged labor abuses and textile transshipment as reasons for the legislation.
NRF, in a joint letter with the American Manufacturers Association, the International Mass Retailers Association, and the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and apparel, said that the measure would confuse consumers and violate current federal laws. The associations represent US companies that manufacture, import, and sell clothing.
An NRF spokesman told the Bureau of National Affairs September 6 that there was concern that the measure could end up being rolled into an omnibus appropriations measure as Congress gets ready to adjourn.
“There is simply no legal, economic, or moral basis for concluding that the United States should treat products differently when they are produced in the CNMI [rather] than in California, New York, or North Carolina. No part of the United States — including other territories — has ever been subjected to US import duties and quotas on its products,” the letter stated.
Further, the trade associations argued that duties and quotas would “stifle” Saipan’s garment industry, which is the largest source of livelihood for the island. “By effectively destroying the CNMI’s manufacturing sector, this legislation would undermine the CNMI’s economy, potentially making the CNMI more dependent on the federal government,” the letter warned.
The letter said that federal law requires US companies to identify “USA” as the country of origin of products made in CNMI since CNMI is part of the United States. Other US territories are subject to the same rules. Not only would the legislation fail to achieve its stated objectives, it would discriminate against a group of US citizens and set a dangerous precedent for other US territories, the letter said.
“We are delighted to hear of these major players’ objections to legislation that would adversely affect our business,” said Richard A. Pierce, acting chairman of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association. “Even more importantly, we’re pleased to know that the NRF recognizes the work we’re doing in addressing our opponents arguments in the Franks Bill”
The National Retail Federation, an organization representing more than 1.4 million US retail establishments, is using the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association (SGMA) as an international model for socially responsible factories. On its internet web site, NRF mentions SGMA prominently in the section regarding suppliers and labor standards, as well as on the site’s home page.
The web site, which can be found at www.sweatshops-retail.org, describes the high standards of NRF and what retailers are doing to make certain they don’t buy from sweatshops. The site links to the Code of Conduct page on this site, and states, “…the SGMA experience shows how suppliers can work with retailers, non-governmental organizations and the government to improve labor standards compliance. The SGMA effort represents one industry-wide attempt by suppliers to work together to improve the treatment of workers throughout an entire industry.”
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association with membership that comprise all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalogue, Internet and independent stores. NRF members employ more than 20 million people or about 1 in 5 American workers. NRF’s international members operate stores in more than 50 countries. In its role as the retail industry’s umbrella group, NRF also represents 32 national and 50 state associations in the US as well as 36 international associations representing retailers abroad.