IFAI lobbies for change

We often hear that one person can’t make a difference, so why bother contacting legislators and policy makers? Two IFAI divisions have proof that government relations programs are effective and bring tangible benefit to the industry. By combining one company’s efforts with other like-minded companies in these IFAI divisions, change is happening. Advocacy helps to expand business opportunities for the specialty fabrics industry by targeting key policy and decision makers in government, educating them about the industry and creating business-friendly environments for U.S. manufacturers. 

The Geosynthetics Materials Association (GMA) and the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI), divisions of IFAI, set up Lobby Days for their members to visit Washington D.C. legislative and agency offices. There is no better way to have concerns heard in Congress than by having legislators hear first-hand from constituents. Recent USIFI and GMA Lobby Days brought more than fifty business leaders to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues affecting the industry.

During their late March Lobby Day, USIFI visited fifty-one Congressional offices and introduced the specialty textile industry to many on the Hill who still equate textiles with cut-and-sew apparel production, having no idea that technical textiles affect their daily lives in numerous ways. In each office, USIFI members advocated for fair treatment for U.S. textile manufacturers in the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement now being negotiated; for enforcement and expansion of the Berry Amendment for government purchases of textiles and apparel; for quick resolution of the error in the CAFTA agreement concerning sewing thread; and for passage of the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, a bi-partisan noncontroversial bill that cuts tariffs on raw goods no longer produced in the U.S., but used in the manufacture of products by U.S. companies. 

USIFI is advocating for the entire industry, not just members of USIFI. This IFAI division worked on an issue for the past three years that benefitted many U.S. companies: they were successful in inserting permanent language into the Berry Amendment which requires that all tent components, in addition to the fabric, be of domestic origin in DoD-purchased tents.

GMA advocates for the use of geomaterials in coal ash containment, road building and other applications. GMA’s government relations program succeeded in lobbying Congress to fund a cost benefit study for using geosynthetics in roadways. The study, expected to be finished in 2012, is being conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GMA met with the GAO to provide guidance and resources for the study.

USIFI and GMA approach their lobbying efforts in different ways: GMA employs a lobby firm to direct specific programs to generate action. They have been very effective in bringing more business to the geosynthethics industry through the mandated use of geomaterials in various civic and environmental projects. 

USIFI is a member of the American Manufacturers Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) which serves as their advocacy arm in Washington on general textile and manufacturing issues. With AMTAC’s guidance, USIFI has developed significant partnerships that have brought attention and business to the specialty textile industry. Most recently, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) asked USIFI for help in identifying sensitive U.S. technical textile product lines which must be protected in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. USTR and the Administration have adopted the stance advocated by USIFI that TPP must include a yarn-forward country of origin as a key part of the pact, allowing for U.S.-made inputs to be used in TPP country products. 

As IFAI members, consider joining either or both of these divisions so you, too, can make a difference.