U.S. Trade Ambassador: L.A. Apparel and Textile Companies Key to Boosting Exports


The Obama administration wants the Los Angeles apparel and textile industry to help the country double its exports by the end of 2014. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis made his first trip to Los Angeles as a member of the Obama administration, visiting key apparel and textile factories on April 2 and then holding a round table with about 30 apparel and textile executives to urge them to take advantage of the various free-trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. government.

“The whole point of my being here is to talk to the industry about how to take advantage of the ‘Made in USA’ label and how do we use our trade agreements to help the industry export,” said Marantis, who was named Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in 2009. He has been active in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement between the United States and eight other countries—Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.

This was Marantis’ first trip to Los Angeles in his role as a trade negotiator. He toured the facilities of Karen Kane, a well-known womenswear maker, as well as denim sewing contractorNew Fashion and the wash and dye house Blue River Denim, Inc. He then met with about 30 industry executives at the offices of the non-profit Fashion Business Inc. to encourage L.A.’s apparel makers to take advantage of the fast-growing markets of Asia. For example, Vietnam has a population of 90 million people and most of them are under the age of 30. “Our mission in life [at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office] is to grow exports that support new jobs,” Marantis said.

He pointed out that the recently enacted free-trade agreement with South Korea means that U.S. exports will be boosted by $10 billion to $11 billion a year. With that free-trade agreement, apparel exports to South Korea are no longer subject to an average 13 percent tariff. “The role of the industry here is producing high-fashion, high-style items. There is not only a market here, but 95 percent of the world’s consumers live abroad. There is a market [for California fashion] in Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea,” he said.

Marantis spoke to industry leaders such as Lonnie Kane, president of Karen Kane; Bryan Kang, president of Rhapsody Clothing Inc.; Rob Greenspan, head of Greenspan Consult Inc.; Ken Wengrod of FTC Commercial; Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association; Frances Harder, founder of business incubator Fashion Business Inc., and Joe Rodriguez, executive director of the Garment Contractor’s Association of Southern California

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