Patterns of World Textile Trade:2000-2010

The following findings are from:

Lu, S. (2013). Impacts of quota elimination on world textile trade: A reality check from 2000 to 2010, Journal of the Textile Institut, 104(3), 239–250.

         “Findings of this study challenge the practices of previous studies that evaluated the impacts of quota elimination mostly by focusing on the performances of developing countries in the U.S. and EU markets (Nordas, 2004; Curran, 2008). Although such strategy may work for clothing trade, its appropriateness for scrutinizing world textile trade is evidenced to be questionable. Particularly, to manufacture textiles, it places higher requirements on a country’s technology advancement level and capital abundance than clothing production which is more labor intensive in nature and with lower business entry threshold (Dickerson, 1999). Therefore, as shown in the study, it was the developed countries rather than the developing countries that remain dominant and competitive textile exporters in the world today (WTO, 2011).  On the other hand, the developed countries are no longer leading textile importers either because of their dramatic shrinkage of domestic clothing manufacturing capacity (Dicken, 2003). To certain extent, missing such distinct patterns of textile trade may be one reason why findings of many previous studies turned out to be inconsistent with the reality (Ahmad & Diaz, 2008).

       Second, findings of this study call for attention to the new round of structural change of world textile trade that may have unfolded since the outbreak of the world financial crisis in 2008. This is particularly the case for the high-income countries which suddenly saw sharper decline of their textile export from 2008 through 2010 compared with earlier years in the post-quota era. It is unclear whether such phenomenon is a temporary market fluctuation in nature or reflects a more permanent adjustment of economic structure that is undergoing in the developed countries. Whether and how the financial crisis has structurally affected the world textile trade can be further explored in future studies.

       Third, findings of this study reflect the difficulty of achieving upgrading of the textile and clothing sector in the less-developed countries.  Although the development theory proposed by Toyne (1984) and Dickerson (1999) optimistically predicted the gradual evolution of a country’s textile and clothing sector over time, results of this study indicated that this upgrading process turned out to be very slow in progress for the developing world. Particularly, in today’s globalized economy, the division of labor between the developed countries and the less-developed ones is largely value-chain based and different from the case of inter-industry division of labor when the development theory was introduced (Toyne, 1984; Gereffi, 1999).  It seems there lacks a clear mechanism for the less-developed countries to gradually move up their position in the clothing value chain and have the chance to build on capacity of manufacturing and exporting textiles.  However, chances may occur if the high-income countries proactively “give up” textile manufacturing and instead prioritize the development of other emerging sectors regarded as more strategically important in the post-crisis recovery. “


Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

3 thoughts on “Patterns of World Textile Trade:2000-2010”

  1. I was not surprised that the evidence from this study determined that “the developed countries rather than the developing countries [remained] dominant and competitive textile exporters in the world today,” because the countries that are less developed do not have the means of technology and technological advancement that the developed countries already have. I also feel that the financial crisis definitely has something to do with the decline of textile exports from high-income countries. It only makes sense that the market will fluctuate when the spending habits of consumers fluctuate as well. Lastly, as far as developing countries having the opportunity to upgrade their position, I found them not having “a clear mechanism” to do so was a little surprising. Although it is not as much, the developed countries still do rely on the developing countries because of their cheap and abundant labor. However, the lack of technology and advancements available to the lesser developed countries could be the reason why there is not a clean mechanism.

  2. I, too was not surprise that the developed countries remain dominant and competitive textile exporter in today’s society, as opposed to developing countries. It would make sense that developed countries would be dominate for they have more capital and productivity. As Karaguarino states above developed countries do depend on developing countries because of their cheap labor. I also agree with the last sentence of the document, if high income countries gave up manufacturing and focused their attention on the development of emerging sectors than it would give the chance for developing countries to increase their capital and productivity.

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