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US Manufacturers Cheered By Developments In Honduras

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

US textile and apparel manufacturers and importers who have seen trade with Honduras disrupted as a result of the political crisis in that country were encouraged by a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a breakthrough in negotiations with Honduras could restore democracy and stability to that country.

The breakthrough, negotiated with assistance from a high-level US diplomatic team, calls for a national unity government to lead the country through a previously scheduled election November 29 and then let the Honduran National Congress decide whether to restore Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by a military coup earlier this year, as president. If the deal holds together, US State Department officials hope it will restore stability to Honduras.

US textile and apparel manufacturers and importers of textiles and apparel have been deeply concerned about the way trade with Honduras has been disrupted. Claiming that billions of dollars in trade with Honduras is at stake, a coalition of importers and manufacturers has been pressing the US government to take the necessary steps to ensure that trade is not further disrupted.

While some commercial traffic with Honduras recently was restored, the coalition says  imports of textiles and apparel from Honduras fell by 38 percent in June, July and August; and preliminary numbers for September show a 39-percent drop from the comparable period a year ago.

The associations point out that credit, insurance and other financing costs associated with moving goods in and out of Honduras are at record-high levels as the financial sector has lost confidence that the crisis would be resolved soon.

Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, believes the breakthrough announced by Secretary Clinton will "begin to restore stability in the region and prevent any further disruption of business." He added that he believes US apparel brands, retailers and textile manufacturers "can now begin to revitalize this critical relationship that supports thousands of US textile and apparel jobs while providing consumers with access to a wider variety of quality clothing at reasonable prices."

November 3, 2009