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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Importers Lobbying Hard For CAFTA-DR

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Retailers and other importers of textile and apparel are stepping up their lobbying efforts in support of the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the release of a sourcing survey and a fly-in to meet with members of Congress. The National Retail Federation and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) surveyed a dozen major retailers to determine their buying intentions. The survey showed that 51 percent of the respondents said they plan to increase their business in Central America if the free trade agreement is approved soon, while 56 percent said they would scale back their sourcing if the pact is rejected.

Kevin Burke, president of AAFA, said the survey helps quantify what he says his members have been saying all along that they need CAFTA-DR to pass now in order to place more business in the region. He also said, "If you are in the textile industry and you are hoping to sell more yarns, fabrics, trimmings and findings in the region, you had better pray that the Congress pass the CAFTA-DR quickly."

The major trade associations representing US textile manufacturers are strongly opposed to CAFTA-DR because the pact as currently structured would permit a specified amount of products from non-participating countries to benefit from the tariff preferences.

The US government has said it will not renegotiate the pact, which has been ratified by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; action is pending in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Concurrent with the release of the survey, importer lobbying organizations announced plans for a delegation of some 40 textile, apparel and retailer executives from the United States and Central America to have a fly in to convey their message to members of Congress. Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said, "On the CAFTA-DR vote, members of Congress are in the position of deciding where US retailers will source the clothing sold in their stores to American families. If the goal is to provide apparel retailers with a viable alternative to sourcing in Asia, then the CAFTA-DR must be passed now."

 Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said the groundwork has been laid for meaningful building blocks for comprehensive trade in the Western Hemisphere, and implementation of the agreement should create new markets and job opportunities for US workers.

In a related development, the American Farm Bureau Federation announced its support for CAFTA-DR, saying that the agreement would provide overwhelming benefits for agriculture in what now is the second largest market in Latin America for US farm products.

April 2005