HONDURAS: Apparel firms urge end to political deadlock
A group of leading apparel and footwear firms has expressed its concern about the ongoing political upheaval in Honduras, calling for "a prompt and just solution" to recent events and the restoration of democracy in the country.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, major sportswear and apparel companies Nike, Adidas, Gap Inc and Knights Apparel - all of whom source products from the Central American nation - urge "an immediate resolution to the crisis."
They also ask that "civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected."
While being careful not to side with any party in the dispute, the message is clear: that investors in the country are worried events are getting out of control after former president Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the army at the end of last month.
Any deterioration in the situation could ultimately force them to switch sourcing to other parts of the region in order to safeguard supplies in the run-up to the key back-to-school and holiday seasons.
Their moves also mirror a similar letter sent by trade groups representing US textile and apparel importers and retailers to President Barack Obama emphasising the need for "predictability and stability" in Honduras.
Industry sources in the country have told just-style the leadership upheaval has had little impact on the clothing industry and that companies are continuing to fulfil all their order commitments to customers.
But labour unions continue to call for an urgent review of trade with the country, and for global sanctions to be imposed on Honduras unless democracy is restored.
The Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), a Toronto, Canada based labour rights NGO with ties to worker and women's groups in Honduras, asks why other major international brands and manufacturers with a presence in Honduras have remained silent.
"Until now, businesses and business associations...have publicly supported the coup, lobbied against trade sanctions, or remained silent and carried on business as usual under the military-imposed regime," says Lynda Yanz, executive director of MSN.
"Thankfully," she adds, "the brands that signed this statement are taking seriously their responsibility to Honduran workers and their rights and civil liberties."
Honduras is the fourth largest apparel supplier to the US market, the largest DR-CAFTA (Dominican Republic - Central American Free Trade Agreement) supplier, and America's biggest sock supplier after temporary tariffs on imports of cotton socks were lifted at the end of last year.
Honduras is also the third largest market for US textile mill products.
Speaking to just-style last week, Daniel Facusse, president of the Asociacion Hondureña De Maquiladores (AHM), the country's Apparel Manufacturers' Association, said reports of growing unrest and rising tension in the country were exaggerated.
He added that: "None of the apparel business has been interrupted...imports and exports have been going through the ports, roads, and all plants and factories have been working as usual."
He also said the legal framework that protects workers' labour rights is still intact, and that any attempts to change them will be defended vigorously.
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