From May 22nd through May 24th, USA-ITA leadership and member companies attended the 21st Guatemala Apparel Sourcing Show, “CAFTA-DR: Thriving on Global Changes.” USA-ITA President Julia K. Hughes moderated sessions, and speakers included USA-ITA members from J.C. Penney Purchasing Corporation, PVH, and Alston & Bird. 

The focus on Wednesday, May 23rd, was international trade. The day kicked off with a session titled, “CAFTA-DR Opportunities: How Governments Can Support Business,” which featured Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles & Apparel at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and frequent speaker at USA-ITA meetings. She was joined by Maria Luisa Flores Vice Minister of Trade & Commercial Integration for Guatemala, and Claudia Del Aguila, Vice Minister of Investment & Competitiveness for Guatemala.

The session was followed by a keynote by Ken Mangone, Executive Vice President of Product Development, Design, & Sourcing at J.C. Penney Purchasing Corporation and USA-ITA Board member. In his session, “The Dynamic CAFTA Supply Chain,” he explained sourcing in the Western Hemisphere from the perspective of a major U.S. retailer, and described J.C. Penney’s long-term strategy for sourcing in CAFTA. He was quoted extensively in California Apparel News


“The duty-free aspect is very important, but we still see disadvantages [in Central America] on productivity and cost,” said Ken Mangone, executive vice president of product development, design and sourcing at JCPenney, who was one of several sourcing executives speaking at various seminars held at the three-day show. 


He said he thought there was opportunity in Central America if the factories worked on flexibility, speed, creating more vertical operations and getting more raw-material inputs closer to the clothing factories.

Offering design services, he said, was another way to win customers. “Design capability is something where Asia is pretty far advanced, where they have hired design teams and partnered with us,” he explained. 


He said JCPenney is more interested in doing business in the region now that Asia is getting more expensive.

Last year, JCPenney reopened its Guatemala City sourcing office, which closed in 2003 when Asia became a more important sourcing area… 


Mangone also said the region has potential to make home products and accessories—such as decorative pillows, sheets and towels—for JCPenney.


Ken Mangone speaks at Guatemala Presidential Palace

 USA-ITA Board Member Ken Mangone of J.C. Penney Purchasing Corp. speaks during dinner at the Guatemala Presidential Palace.


Later Wednesday, USA-ITA President Julia K. Hughes participated in a discussion on sourcing strategies and trade negotiations. In a session titled, “U.S. Retailer Insights: How CAFTA Supports Sourcing Strategies,” Assistant U.S. Trade Rep. for Textiles Gail Strickler joined Juan Carlos Contreras of USA-ITA Member PVH, along with representatives from Target, Liztex, and Li & Fung. The session was moderated by USA-ITA President Julia K. Hughes. Following, Hughes also presented a session titled, “U.S. Trade Policy: How Will New FTAs & Trade Negotiations Impact CAFTA?” alongside Jon Fee, a partner at USA-ITA Associate Member Alston & Bird. The PDF of Hughes’ PowerPoint presentation is available here.

Other seminars throughout the event included discussions with Cotton Incorporated, as well as a session on product safety and U.S. testing and certification requirements, with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council (CPSC) and BJ Shannon, Senior Associate at USA-ITA Associate Member Alston & Bird.

USA-ITA continues to look forward to continuing to work with the CAFTA-DR region to find ways for U.S. companies to get the best product at the best price.