The childrenswear marketing division of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) presented its five-month report card on the CBI/Africa trade bill at the recent MAGIC show in Las Vegas, February 13-15.

Stephen Lamar, director of government relations, discussed the progress of the law - enacted October 2000 - which basically put the Caribbean Basin on the same trade level as Mexico post-NAFTA. According to Lamar, although it's too early to develop trade trends for the coming year, several categories of tariff-rate quotes are reporting trade flow.

A couple of issues still being smoothed include the need to update customs computer systems, which is being looked at now and may require funding from Congress, as well as the labour standards in Guatemala, which if substandard would cause immediate dismissal from the parity program for three years.

Another big issue is the savings incurred at the end of the day from the duty benefit, according to Lamar. If, for example, a company was paying one dollar per trouser before the duty benefit, who realises the savings post-parity? Realistically, there are several options. It could go to the yarn and fabric companies in terms of higher prices, employees of various companies in terms of wage increases or to consumers and/or retailers in terms of lower prices. In other scenarios, savings could be spent on extra paperwork related to compliance costs - such as extra staff, for example.

Lamar said that although there had been some initial stumbling blocks after the October 2, 2000 proclamations and October 5, 2000 regulations related to bureaucratic processes and learning curves, AAFA members are enthusiastic and supportive of the bill. "I get calls every day from our members who are eager to embrace CBI Parity," Lamar says. "We still have a to-do list of things we need to get done in the near future, but we're moving in that direction."