Dominican Republic and United States flagsIn September, Washington, DC welcomed a business delegation from the Dominican Republic (DR), as part of the annual Dominican Week (“SemDomUSA2019”). The trip allows for the dynamic Dominican private sector and Washington to exchange ideas toward strengthening economic ties between the United States and the Dominican Republic (DR).

Squire Patton Boggs hosted the distinguished delegation for a panel discussion titled, “Adapting to Global Supply Chain Disruption.” Participating panelists were former Congressman Joe Crowley, who currently serves as aSPB Senior Policy Advisor; Jerry Cook, Vice President, Government and Trade Relations of Hanesbrands; Leila Aridi Afas, Director of International Public Policy forToyota Motor North America, Inc.; Frank Samolis, SPB Partner and International Trade Practice Co-Chair; and Alex Pena-Prieto, SPB Santo Domingo Office Managing Partner and Latin America Practice Chairman.

The discussion covered the current political climate in the United States, particularly the dynamic between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate and White House, and advancing a U.S. trade agenda. Congressman Crowley noted that he currently helps co-lead the Pass USMCA Coalition, which is advocating for swift congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement deal for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In this capacity, he spotlighted that on some trade issues, such as the USMCA, shows there is room for cooperation, which in turn may extend to Latin America and the Caribbean. Crowley expressed optimism that there would be bipartisan approval of the USMCA after Democratic concerns about labor, environmental, pharmaceutical, and overall enforcement are addressed. He added that USMCA will be the standard for future trade negotiations, which could include the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

The panel discussion also highlighted the importance of commercial supply chains, with the automotive sector spotlighted due to the scope of commercial agreements and policies in the global production of vehicles and automotive parts. Toyota’s Aridi-Afas shared the DR private sector has great opportunities, including nearshore trade between countries for the manufacture and marketing of products. She added Caribbean companies need to use technology and data information to expand their businesses to new markets.

Jerry Cook from Hanesbrand also spotlighted the interconnected nature of global supply chains within the textile and clothing industry. He noted the “predictability” and “stability” of a product is an important aspect within the supply and marketing chain for attracting foreign investments. Cook highlighted several positive aspects of the DR that have allowed Hanesbrand to be at the forefront of trade on the island, such as the opening of new customs ports, the bilateral relationship with the US, tourism and a vibrant private sector that is the engine of the DR economy.

Additionally, Cook noted the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) entails a close relationship in the economic momentum of certain Caribbean countries to further facilitate supply chains with DR. Cook indicated the Dominican market has played an important role in the textile industry, thanks to the manufacturing, employment and market predictability that distinguishes them apart from the Mexican and Canadian markets.

With respect to the commercial relationship between the DR and China, Cook mentioned DR exports to the US could be impacted by increased customs scrutiny in the United States due to U.S. national security concerns with certain products, namely steel and aluminum.

Cook also referred to the DR as a country with opportunities for economic growth in the energy (renewable) and agricultural sectors. He further congratulated the private sector for its constant communication with the US Department of State, as well as the Department of Commerce, and suggested adding the Office of theUS Trade Representative (USTR) to their next Washington visit. Finally, he suggested the DR take advantage of the Free-Trade-Zone platform to expand its trade with the United States.