Textile Industry Sees GATT as Mixed Bag

Article excerpt

SPARTANBURG, S.C. _ Larry Tarleton sold his sewing factory this week, rather than face the foreign competition that GATT is expected to bring.

Adobe Apparel Inc. made T-shirts, sweatshirts and dresses for companies like Russell Athletics. Tarleton said Wednesday he was lucky to have found a buyer for his Greenwood company in an industry he called "a dying breed."

"I have spent the last five years trying to build a company, and in my opinion the government has destroyed the sewing machine industries by approving two things: NAFTA and GATT," he said, referring to the global General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement signed this year between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Most textile and apparel shops aren't expected to close their doors if the Senate approves the GATT on Thursday. The House of Representatives passed the measure Tuesday.

Even healthy companies, such as Arkwright Mills in Spartanburg, expect the 124-nation trade pact to hurt, although they acknowledge parts of it could help the industry.

"I think it's about the best they could have done," said Earl Gowan, a payroll clerk at Arkwright for 53 years.

Other workers interviewed Wednesday said they had faith that expanded trade would keep their jobs from heading overseas.

"We really don't know what's going to happen, but we're hoping it's going to bring more jobs to the South," said Reba Rothrock, 65, a 25-year veteran at Arkwright.

The mill's president and treasurer, MacFarland Cates, expects his family-owned company will have to fight off competition from the Far East, long a producer of inexpensive cloth. …