A delegation of about 40 textile, apparel, and retailer executives from the United States and Central America will meet in Washington tomorrow to lobby for swift passage of the US/Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). 

The fly-in is being organised under the auspices of the US-based Business Coalition for Central America Trade. 

Companies represented are all members of that coalition as well as the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), the National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT).
 
"With 96 per cent import penetration for apparel and 98 per cent import penetration for footwear, CAFTA-DR will determine whether we import clothing and footwear sewn in Central America using US inputs or clothing and footwear sewn in Asia using Asian inputs," noted Kevin M Burke, president and CEO of AAFA.
 
Tracy Mullin, President & CEO of NRF, added: "On the DR-CAFTA vote, Members of Congress are in the position of deciding where US retailers will source the clothing sold in their stores to American families. 

"If the goal is to provide apparel retailers a viable alternative to sourcing in Asia, then the DR-CAFTA must be passed now."
 
The CAFTA-DR has emerged as an important policy tool for US textile, apparel, and retail firms looking to keep a viable western hemisphere supply chain competitive.

US yarn and fabric exports to the region have expanded by more than $2 billion over the past five years.
 
Central America now represents one of the fastest growing export markets for US textiles and the campaigners believe CAFTA-DR will build upon the current one-way trade preference program to provide additional incentives and opportunities for US textile companies to do business in the region.

A recent survey conducted by The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the National Retail Federation found that 51 per cent of respondents plan to increase their business in the region if CAFTA-DR is approved.

Over 56 per cent said they would scale back their sourcing in the region if CAFTA-DR is rejected. 

Moreover, none of the respondents plan to increase business if CAFTA-DR is rejected and none plan to decrease business if CAFTA-DR is approved.
 
The CAFTA-DR is expected to be considered by the US Congress this Spring.  It has already been ratified by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Besides the United States, action is still pending in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.