More than 100 representatives from across the US and Colombian textile, apparel and retail supply chain are calling for immediate approval of the US/Colombia Trade Promotions Agreement (TPA) to ensure a predictable trading relationship between the two countries. 

Their concerns were outlined in a letter sent yesterday (10 July) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA),

In it, the group explained the importance of Colombia not only as a vital source for US imports, but as a crucial export market for US cotton growers and US textile and apparel manufacturers. 
 
"The US textile and apparel manufacturing industry still employs nearly 500,000 people in the United States," said Kevin M Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), which helped organise the letter. 

"These jobs are dependant on the $16bn worth of US-made textile and apparel product exported from the United States each year - of which about 45% is bound for the Andean region, including Colombia, Mexico and Central America."
 
The existing trade relationship with Colombia currently rests on a temporary one-way preference program - the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) - that is under constant threat of expiration. 

Congress narrowly averted a gap in benefits by approving a 10-month renewal for the ATPA, which provides trade benefits to the Andean region, just days before the program was set to expire this past February. 

A new expiration date is now looming at the end of this year. 

To gain more predictability and develop a stronger relationship, US and Colombian businesses are pressing to turn the current one-way temporary program into a permanent, reciprocal trade partnership. 

In April, President George Bush submitted the US/Colombia Trade Promotions Agreement (TPA) Implementation Act to Congress, paving the way to make current temporary trade programs permanent.