Two of the nation's biggest textile groups yesterday declared contradictory positions on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Sectors of the declining...

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WASHINGTON — Two of the nation’s biggest textile groups yesterday declared contradictory positions on the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Sectors of the declining U.S. textile industry, along with sugar interests, have led the charge against CAFTA, which faces an uncertain reception in Congress this spring.

That made the National Council of Textile Organizations’ endorsement yesterday a coup for the treaty’s supporters, including President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership.

But also yesterday, the National Textile Association denounced the treaty and NCTO’s decision to support it.

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NCTO includes a group of suppliers of yarn and other fabric components whose export businesses are likely to grow if Central America’s textile industry grows.

“It is astounding that the yarn suppliers and other supplier members on the NCTO board could act with such extreme short-sightedness,” said NTA President Karl Spilhaus, whose organization is dominated by weavers, knitters and other fabric-making companies. “Their support for CAFTA is directly contrary to the interests of their customers, the companies who weave, knit or finish fabric in the U.S.”

The U.S. textile industry exported more than $5 billion in yarns, fabric and component parts to CAFTA’s six Central American and Caribbean nations last year. Those countries are not significant markets for finished American textiles.

In the past decade, the U.S. textile industry has lost nearly 900,000 — or 57 percent — of its jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.