Ahead of a more competitive sourcing environment in 2005, this year's Apparel Sourcing Show in Guatemala is set to spotlight the special advantages for US buyers interested in doing business with the whole Central America region.

Incorporated into the event will be a matchmaking program to bring together US buyers and suppliers, and a new Full Package Sourcing Pavilion - where companies looking to expand sourcing opportunities can meet with apparel manufacturers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, there will be producers from Andean countries such as Peru and Colombia.

Seminars and workshops focusing on topics such as textiles, full package, product development and supply chain issues will be held each day. And local industry experts are available to provide factory visits.

Government officials representing both Guatemala and the United States are also due to participate.

This year's show will feature Marcio Cuevas, Guatemala's new Minister of Economy, as the lead speaker for the seminar, 'CAFTA: New Opportunities for the Apparel and Textile Industry.' Mr Cuevas has long been involved in Guatemala's trade industry, including participation in the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiations.

Robert W Boynton of the Department of State will also take part in the CAFTA panel discussions. Mr Boynton currently serves as the Guatemala Desk Officer, and was previously posted in the Textile division at the State Department. Mr Boynton also prepared the US State Department's report on the Impact of 2005.

Currently, Central America ships more than $7,000 million in textile and apparel products to the United States, of which $1.7 million comes from Guatemala alone.

The ability of regional manufacturers to adapt to the coming changes is critical to their future and companies in Guatemala and Central American region are keen to play up their strengths to US importers.

These include proximity and the duty preferences available under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) - and the potential expansion of those benefits under the terms of a US-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

The 13th Annual Apparel Sourcing Show takes place from 5-7 May in Guatemala City. Detailed information is also available at the Apparel Sourcing Show website.