A new sourcing directory has been launched to help boost the textile and apparel trade in the United States and the six trading partners who make up the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

The online tool made its debut this week at the annual MAGIC textile trade show, and is designed to enable textile and apparel manufacturers in the region to reach the retailers, brands, and importers that source the multi-billion dollar apparel industry.

The DR-CAFTA Sourcing Directory includes detailed information about apparel and textile producers in the countries that make up the trade pact: Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Users can also find producers outside the region that could fill orders of short supply materials as allowed under DR-CAFTA rules.

Easy-to-search company listings include a profile of each supplier, along with details of product transit times, services available and whether or not they are carried out in-house (like design, CAD, sample making, dyeing, embroidery, stone washing, label printing). There is also information on minimum runs.

While it is free to post a company profile in the directory, the entry has to be validated by the national trade association for each country. And there is a charge for a listing by short supply or extra-regional vendors.

Small and medium sized companies are especially encouraged to use the tool to gain better exposure to potential customers at all points of the regional textiles and apparel supply chain.

The overall aim, though, is to build better connections between textile buyers and manufacturers, which in turn could drive additional investment in the region – and ultimately attract increased sourcing of textiles and apparel to the western hemisphere.

In 2010, the United States exported $2.4bn in yarn and fabric to trading partners under the DR-CAFTA. These inputs were then used to make apparel that was subsequently exported back to the US, with shipments worth more than $7bn in 2010.

The DR-CAFTA Sourcing Directory is part of a long-term collaboration between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the US Trade Representative, and the governments of CAFTA-DR member countries.

Its launch comes as President Obama seeks to strengthen trade that supports US jobs. Recently there has also been renewed interest in sourcing textile production in the Americas.

Click here to view the directory.