MEXICO CITY — Mexico's textiles and apparel exports surged 10 percent to roughly $2 billion in the first five months of the year as a sluggish peso lured U.S. apparel firms, despite lingering risks from President Trump's protectionist policies."So far the year has been good," said Alfonso Zepeda, general manager of main apparel lobby Canaive's chapter in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city. "Many new U.S. companies are paradoxically looking to increase orders from Mexico because of the peso's decline, especially with those that have modernized their manufacturing technology."Zepeda's comments came even though Mexico stands to lose most from Trump's plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is set to begin by Aug. 16, the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday. Trump's plan to rewrite the accord could result in higher tariffs for Mexico, hurting its economy.But Zepeda said the slumping peso — which has fallen nearly 50 percent in the past three years — has boosted Mexico's trade with the U.S., to which it sends around 80 percent of its apparel production.Jalisco State — home to Guadalajara — full-package suppliers such as Maquiladora Vivanco, Productora de Paul and Confecciones Santa Fe are benefiting from the trend, Zepeda said.Teenage and quinceañera — a Hispanic tradition celebrating a girl's 15th birthday — clothing-maker Ragazza Fashion is also doing well, as is cowboy shirt brand Camisas Ranger's, he added.He said small and midsize U.S. retailers are increasingly buying denim and more fashionable cotton and polyester-blend "fashion" blouses from Mexico.Meanwhile, the country is working to broaden its trade relations with China as part of plans to wean itself from the U.S. in case NAFTA’s rejig proves harmful. As part of that effort, Mexico City will host the China Homelife fair in mid-June, which 750 Chinese firms are expected to attend, many of them textile and footwear manufacturers."There are opportunities," said Zepeda, adding that some Mexican apparel segments can benefit from cheap Chinese fabrics. "There are 300 manufacturers of bed and other linens that could use Chinese inputs as long as these come at competitive prices."That is a sticking point.In the past, the industry has complained that a flood of sub-valued Chinese imports has dented its fortunes, prompting the government to introduce regulations to stem the tide and tighten its border. But now Mexico may be willing to negotiate new concessions to broaden its Chinese trade, analysts said.Meanwhile, Expo Denim — Mexico's first denim machinery and fabrics fair — will host 60 companies and 90 stands and is expected to attract some 1,500 buyers when it launches in Guadalajara on May 31, said Zepeda, who is also its director.The event hopes to generate more than $20 million in sales as key exhibitors including Spain's Jeanologia, Italy's Oficina 39, France's Lectra and the U.S.' Gerber market their products. Zepeda said laser-finishing technologies and patterning equipment will be among the highlights.Jeanologia will be showing its jean finishing products while Oficina 39 will be marketing its washing and dyeing chemicals, he noted.Mexican denim majors Tavemex, Global Denim, Misutex and sewing machine maker Casa Diaz will also be at the three-day event, which claims to be the largest of its kind in Latin America.Running until June 2, Expo Denim was set up to meet Mexico denim sector's marketing demands unmet by the Intermoda fair, the country's biggest, Zepeda noted.
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