The Percent of U.S. Apparel Imports Entering under Free Trade Agreements Fell to a Record Low Level in 2015

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Latest statistics from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) show that the share of U.S. apparel imports entering under free trade agreements (FTAs) fell to a record low level of only 15.4 percent in 2015. This figure was not only lower than 16.2 percent in 2014, but also was THE lowest one since 2006, despite the implementation of a few new FTAs during that period.  

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Among the major FTAs reached by the United States, the U.S.-Bahrain has the highest utilization rate of 99.7 percent in 2015 (note: utilization rate =value of imports entering under FTA from a particular country/value of imports from a particular country), whereas a couple of FTAs whose utilization rate is below 80 percent, such as CAFTA-DR (75.8 percent), U.S.-Korea FTA (75.2 percent), U.S.-Israel FTA (65.5 percent), U.S.-Australia FTA (53.7 percent) and U.S.-Morocco FTA (34.6 percent). A low utilization rate implies that U.S. companies did not claim the preferential duty benefits while importing apparel from these FTA regions.

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On the other hand, CAFTA-DR and NAFTA altogether account for around 76 percent of U.S. apparel imports entering under FTAs in 2015. This result is consistent with the findings in the 2015 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study which also finds that CAFTA-DR and NAFTA were the two most frequently utilized FTAs reported by the survey respondents.

As a result of the lower share of apparel imports entering under FTAs, the American Apparel and Footwear Association Apparelstat 2015 released this week found that the effective average U.S. apparel import duty reached 13.54 percent in 2014, which is even higher than 11.97 percent in 2001. In comparison, over the same period, the average U.S. import duty on ALL products dropped from 1.64 percent in 2001 to 1.40 percent in 2014.

by Sheng Lu