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Trade Groups Lobby Clinton on Honduras

A coalition of trade associations called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to increase pressure on the Honduran government.

WASHINGTON — A coalition of trade associations on Wednesday called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to increase pressure on the Honduran government to resolve a four-month-old coup before the textile and apparel industry deteriorates further.

Seven textile and apparel industry associations sent their second letter in a month to Clinton expressing concern. The groups warned that if the current standoff continues, the textile and apparel sector in Honduras could be permanently damaged.

According to the letter, the association’s members report their financing costs have increased as uncertainty in Honduras fuels a loss of confidence in the region. The group also said the administration’s refusal to recognize future election results in Honduras was sending a message that the country “could be reduced to a pariah state for an indefinite period.”

Talks between ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya and the de facto president Roberto Micheletti broke down last week. The U.S. increased its involvement in negotiations as the coup dragged on, and a delegation of U.S. State Department and White House officials wraps up a two-day visit to Honduras today. Zelaya was deposed by the Honduran military in June.

Wednesday’s letter was signed by the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, The Hosiery Association, the National Cotton Council, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the National Textile Association, the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

The coalition said damage to the apparel supply chain, from fiber companies to apparel retailers, was increasing. The apparel sector has been “an essential stabilizing factor in the CAFTA [Central American Free Trade Agreement] region,” the letter said. “While factories can be closed or run on short orders for weeks, they cannot do so for months on end. The end result is increased plant closures, job losses and the crippling of a once booming trade sector.”

Textile and apparel imports from Honduras and textile exports to Honduras have both fallen more than 30 percent, the trade associations said.

The same groups sent a similar letter to the State Department on Sept. 25. A group of apparel and footwear companies — including Nike Inc., Adidas Group and Gap Inc. — also sent a letter to Clinton in July urging the administration to help restore democracy in Honduras.

Figures from the Commerce Department show apparel and textile imports from Honduras totaled $2.23 billion for the year ended Aug. 31. U.S. textile companies exported $1.5 billion to Honduras last year, according to industry figures.