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New coalition hopes to attract more business to Western Hemisphere

As the prices of raw materials, labor and transportation continue to rise seemingly exponentially, a group of U.S. and international apparel and textile trade associations, brands and retailers are coming together in response. In collaboration with the federal government, these businesses are aiming to promote and draw more new commerce to the Western Hemisphere.

Increasing inflation worries are causing companies to rethink their strategies. These corporations are taking a second look at regions that can provide speed-to-market and fast-fashion deliveries, aspiring to attract more business and investment in areas such as Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. Hopes are these geographical areas will be able to counterbalance escalating price pressures.

“It’s timely because there are more concerns about rising costs in China and availability in Asia, and our members are getting increased interest in the region,” Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said to WWD. “But we also realize that a lot people are not familiar with the region. This is a group effort by these importing and domestic companies and regional trade groups to focus attention on what the region can provide.”

Billed as the “Sourcing in the Americas Summit,” the coalition will be launched at the MAGIC show in Las Vegas, Aug. 21 to 24. One objective is to take a fresh look at options.

“It is the first time those of us in the industry have seen this level of commitment from the administration and business,” Julia Hughes, president of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, told WWD. “We’re sharing ideas and talking about success stories in the region and throughout the supply chain.”

The MAGIC affair concurs with President Obama’s National Export Initiative: The president, as stated in two State of the Union speeches, is aiming to double exports over the next five years.

Apparel and textile exports, however, have been faring decently well, increasing 18 percent from 2009 to hit $3.8 billion in 2010.

“This has become a wonderful collaboration to feature the supply chain in the Western Hemisphere and highlight it for sourcing agents to consider it a very viable option. It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Kim Glas, deputy assistant secretary for textiles and apparel for the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

One crucial strategy to emerge is a database that will connect suppliers with buyers, to be overseen and funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.

“Not only will it bring buyers and sellers together, it will bring sellers and sellers together,” said Gail Strickler, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for textiles, who is helping to guide the initiative for the government.

Tagged in: apparel, business, price, sourcing, textile, inflation, associations, obama, americas summit, exports,

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