Executives from retail giant Wal-Mart and Sae-A Trading, one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers, are among speakers taking part in next month’s Free Zones of the Americas Conference in Nicaragua.

The two-day event will be held in Managua from 5-6 November, and aims to highlight investment opportunities in the region’s free zones, along with panel discussions on the latest trends and developments.

Mark Green, senior sourcing director for Latin America at Walmart, will be participating as a panellist in a discussion on ‘Value Chains in the Global Context.’ The session will discuss how international trade patterns have changed in recent years and how the creation of regional value chains has affected large and medium size companies.

Green leads the sourcing efforts of manufactured goods for Central America and the Caribbean, and is the head of the Mexican team for apparel imports.

Also taking part is Wooung-Ki Kim, chairman and founder of Sae-A Trading, the vertically-integrated South Korean manufacturer that produces over 1m items of clothing a day and has annual exports of $1.8bn, with operations in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. 

The conference is mainly directed towards free zone users, representatives of industrial parks, investors, customs officers, exporters and freight companies.

In 2014, exports from Nicaragua’s free zones reached US$2.385bn, representing 7% growth in comparison to 2013. Additionally, during the first quarter of 2015, free zone exports reached US$537m, according to data from the National Free Zones Commission (CNZF). Around two-thirds of the country’s free zone exports consist of apparel. The free zones are industrial parks where raw materials can be imported duty-free as long as they are exported once assembled into a finished product.

Organisers include the Nicaraguan Association of the Textile and Apparel Industry, along with the Free Zones of the Americas Association, the National Commission of Free Zones of Nicaragua, PRONicaragua, the official investment and export promotion agency of Nicaragua, the Superior Council of the Private Enterprise, and the Nicaraguan Federation Chamber of Private Free Zones.

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