A Saipan delegation arrived in Washington D.C. July 12 to attempt to save the island’s ailing garment industry from the flood of cheap garments from China.

The Saipan delegation met with a slew of federal officials the week of July 18 to ask for support for a reduction of the value in garments that must be made or added in Saipan from 50% to 30%.

Sandler Travis Rosenberg — a D.C. lobbying firm that has previously worked on behalf of the garment industry met with the delegation the week of July 12 and accompanied it to meetings.

The CNMI government retained the lobbying firm. Sources in the government said the initial June 2004 retainer was $15 000 and monthly payments of an unconfirmed amount have been made since. The Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association had intended to share the cost of the lobbying firm. In the face of downturn the association closed its office in April and its executive director resigned. The Journal could not confirm whether SGMA would be partially funding the effort. SGMA had 22 members as at March 17 down from 34 in 2000.

Lt. Gov. Diego T. Benavente and CNMI Resident Representative Pete A. Tenorio led the delegation from Saipan which included Alex A. Sablan marketing and administration manager of Saipan Shipping Co. and president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.

The delegation met with members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee who would have jurisdiction over any bill to change Headnote 3(a) the U.S. tariff regulation that governs imports from U.S. territories.

In a July 18 release from his office Tenorio said “If not for the safety measures implemented by President Bush we wouldn’t have the opportunity or time to seek this amendment which will reduce the local-added value from 50% to 30%.

The delegation also met with Toby Burke special assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs; officials at the Office of Insular Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior; 17 members of Congress and their staffs; and territorial delegates from Guam the Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

In a July 20 statement to the Journal Madeleine Z. Bordallo Guam’s delegate to Congress said she had met with the delegation. Bordallo said her staff “has been researching the various trade agreements the United States has recently entered into with other nations and is examining their effect on the CNMI apparel industry. MBJ