texfash.com: The subject of re-shoring or even near-shoring for US textile and apparel companies —though nothing new — has been gaining ground since the COVID-19 pandemic because of supply chain bottlenecks caused by distances and the question of costs. What is your understanding of the situation from a country promoting itself as a sourcing hub? What have been the kind of investments and setting up of garment units in Colombia in the last two years?
Carmen Caballero: Undoubtedly, the pandemic, among other global factors, has changed the game’s rules regarding logistics, imports, and export demands worldwide in many industries. If we look closely, we’ll see that, in this Hemisphere, each South American country has been developing its comparative advantages—including us. Let's talk specifically about Colombia and its competitive advantages for being a key supplier of textiles and apparel in the United States.
First, our country has a well-established fashion industry with more than 100 years of experience and a consolidated production chain. In addition, our textiles and apparel sectors are among the most dynamic in the Colombian economy since they represent around 7.7% of the industrial GDP.
Furthermore, Colombia's strategic position makes it an attractive export platform for companies wishing to expand their operations in Latin America. Our diversified product offer is recognised in the United States (and worldwide) for its high quality, favoured by the increased availability of trained human talent.
Having said all this, our main competitive factors are our products' high quality and added value, the skilled workforce, flexibility, client service, and easy and quick access to the US market. Our delivery lead time is 30/45 days compared to 120/150 days from countries on other continents.
The US- Colombia TPA (USCTPA) represents market opportunities for US apparel and footwear manufacturers. How much has this benefitted the Colombian industry? Could you please elaborate?
Carmen Caballero: The United States is Colombia's most important trading partner, primary investor, and main source of inbound tourism, all areas in which ProColombia, the promotion agency of the country, part of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, works on. There is no doubt that thanks to this longstanding partnership, Colombian and US companies' businesses have strengthened, creating more and better opportunities for both of our people.
In general terms, it’s worth saying that having a regulatory framework for trading goods and services has been crucial. And over the last decade, the Trade Promotion Agreement has allowed Colombia to diversify its exportable offer and grow in multiple sectors, including the fashion industry, which is a sector that is valued at $7 billion (COP 30 billion Colombian pesos), according to Inexmoda.
Let me give you some additional numbers: back in 2021, exports of the fashion industry showed a positive trend, exceeding expectations and registering a 47% growth in both value and volume and closing the year with the highest export figure in the last five years.
The year 2022 also showed some interesting increasing numbers. Colombian fashion industry exports between January and November 2022 grew 6.5% compared to the same period in 2021, reaching over $962 million. Specifically, if we talk about the United States, exports between January and November 2022 grew by 3.1%, reaching $345 million.
Within this regulatory framework, it’s important to say that many small and medium-sized companies are now exporting. Also, the products we are currently shipping are not commodities; they are products with more added value and even Colombian fashion designer brands.
As Colombia evolves, we look forward to making the best out of our Promotion Trade Agreement with the United States, always keeping in mind the need to have a level-playing field based on principles of sustainability; for example, we are looking forward to reducing inequity, and social, economic, and gender gaps, with our whole purpose being to achieve total peace in Colombia.