FTC Proposes to Harmonize Textile Regulations with Canada and Mexico to reach NAFTA Goals

Effort To Reach More Goals Of NAFTA

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The Federal Trade Commission has proposed amendments to its textile content and origin labeling rules to allow the use of abbreviations for generic fiber names, and both abbreviations and symbols in country-of-origin labeling, among other changes. The FTC also is seeking comments on the feasibility of an identification registration system for textile manufacturers or importers that could be shared by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries, and on proposals for improving the FTC's own database of registration numbers. The proposed amendments and other issues on which the FTC is seeking public comments are aimed at streamlining existing regulations and promoting harmonization of textile labeling requirements among the United States, Canada and Mexico. The request for comments will appear in the Federal Register on Feb. 12.

Comments on the proposed amendments will be accepted for 90 days, until May 13. In a separate action, the Commission has added metric equivalents beside inch/pound unit measurements used in the rules' language. These metrication amendments -- required by Executive Order 12700 of July 25, 1991 and the Metric Conversion Act -- do not create any new requirements. The FTC promulgated its Textile Rules in 1959 to implement requirements of the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act. That Act requires marketers of textile products to mark each - more - Textile Act Regulations--02/12/96) product with the generic names and percentages of each fiber present in the amount of 5 percent or more of total weight, the name of the manufacturer or its registered identification number, and the country of origin. As part of its responsibilities under the Textile Act, the Commission has established a system of registration numbers (RNs) for manufacturers or importers, as well as a classification system for generic fiber names. Today's announcement follows the FTC's review of its Textile Rules, as part of an overall review of all the agency's rules and guides. After analyzing public comments solicited in May 1994, the FTC has determined that the rules continue to be useful to both consumers and businesses. However, the Commission now seeks a second round of public comments on the proposed amendments. Many of the first-round comments focused on trade with Mexico and Canada, and indicated that using abbreviations for the most common fibers, and both abbreviations and symbols (such as flags) for country-of-origin names, could enable sellers to use one label for textile products sold within the three NAFTA countries.

Currently, the label information would have to appear in English, French and Spanish to comply with regulations in all of the three countries. Many comments also stated that use of abbreviations and symbols would allow for shorter, less cumber- some labels. The FTC is proposing amendments to allow abbre- viations for fiber names and is seeking further information regarding use of abbreviations and symbols for country of origin. In addition, to further the goals of NAFTA, the Commission is seeking comments on the feasibility of establishing a system of shared information for manufacturer or importer identification among the NAFTA countries. In order to make such a system feasible, the FTC said it first must take steps to improve and update its RN database. Therefore, the Commission is seeking comments on its proposal to require companies holding RN numbers to notify the Commission of any change in name, address or legal business status. If the companies do not report such changes, the Commission could cancel the RN numbers held by that company.

To further streamline the Textile Act regulations, the Commission is seeking comments on whether to: -- eliminate the required disclosure "Fiber Content on Reverse Side" when the fiber content is, in fact, listed on the reverse side of a label; -- eliminate the required disclosure of the functional significance of a named fiber that constitutes less than 5 percent of the total fiber weight of a textile product; and (Textile Act Regulations--02/12/96) -- allow the use of new generic names for manufactured fibers if the name and fiber are recognized by an international standards-setting organization. In addition, the FTC is asking for comments on how to resolve a potential conflict between the FTC rules and U.S. Customs Service regulations implementing the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act, regarding country-of-origin marking for certain textile goods, such as scarves and handkerchiefs. At issue is whether the country-of-origin for these products is defined by where the fabric was produced or where the textile item was finished. The Commission vote to seek public comments on the proposed amendments to the Textile Rules was 5-0.

Comments should be marked "Rules and Regulations under the Textile Act, 16 CFR Part 303 -- Comment" and sent to: the Office of the Secretary, FTC, Room 159, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Commission vote to finalize and publish in the Federal Register the metrication amendments to the Textile Act rules was 5-0. Copies of the two Federal Register notices and the rules are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov

Media Contact:

Brenda A. Mack,

Office of Public Affairs


Staff Contact:

Bret S. Smart,

Los Angeles Regional Office

11000 Wilshire Blvd.,

Suite 13209 Los Angeles, CA 90024


Edwin Rodriguez,

Bureau of Consumer Protection,



(FTC Matter Number: P948404)

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