Policy Documents

Textile Protectionism in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

July 23, 2013

This article and commentary, which appeared in Forbes on July 23, 2013, notes:

One of the very first acts of the very first Congress of the United States was to impose tariffs on imported gloves, hats, and clothing. That temporary protection was bestowed in 1789, when the small U.S. economy was agrarian, and textile and clothing production represented America’s industrial future. Two and one quarter centuries later, textile protectionism is alive and well, and features prominently on the U.S. agenda in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to forge —wait for it…wait for it —a “21st Century” trade agreement.

Rather than compete on quality and price with the world’s few textile producers for the business of the world’s multitude of apparel producers, the U.S. textile industry has convinced the U.S. government to do its bidding.”

In the 224 years since the first Congress, textile and apparel protectionism has been a continuous feature of U.S. trade policy. 

The author accounts how protectionism actually harms the consumer in this provocative commentary.  


Daniel J. Ikenson is director of Cato’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, focusing on WTO disputes, regional trade agreements, U.S.-China trade issues, steel and textile trade policies, and antidumping reform.