Made in the USA Textiles and Apparel:Facts and Future

The presentation is the outcome of Jillian Luetje‘s honor project in FASH455 (Fall 2016). In the project, Jillian explored the facts and future of “Made in USA” textile and apparel based on her research of existing literature and interviews with U.S. trade officials. The presentation intends to help the audience (especially those new to the area of textile and apparel trade and trade policy) have a basic understanding of the topic.  

Key findings:

  • Textile and apparel manufacturing in the USA is NOT totally gone.
  • The U.S. textile industry in particular relies on the Western Hemisphere supply chain and related free trade agreements
  • Made in the USA apparel is not going to increase any time soon.

Welcome for any comments and suggestions!

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

4 thoughts on “Made in the USA Textiles and Apparel:Facts and Future”

  1. Apparel manufacturing is attractive in central america or Asia due to relatively cheap labor cost. A comparison of labor cost between Western v/s eastern hemisphere would have thrown some insight into why US textile exports would continue to hold their position or why apparel manufacturing isn’t going to be attractive in future. Plus, potential impact from TPP would have added to your analysis on what may be the growth of US textiles to eastern hemisphere (not just western). Vietnam being a significant source for apparel, US textile industry could see a ‘light’ spike in growth.

    1. Thank you for your great comment Phani! In my personal view, labor cost is one of many factors that affect apparel companies’ sourcing decisions. This is why China remains the No.1 apparel supplier to the US and EU markets despite its reported higher wage level than in countries like Cambodia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Likewise, wage level in some Western EU countries such as Italy, France, Germany and UK is much higher than in the US. But these Western EU countries remain leading apparel producers in the EU region whereas 98% of apparel consumed in the US are imported today. On the other hand, I don’t think TPP will help promote US textile exports to the “eastern hemisphere”. Apparel made in Vietnam are very unlikely to use textiles made in the US–too expansive and very long lead time. My studies show that Asian countries are becoming even more integrated in their textile and apparel supply chain:
      Interesting enough, back in 2009, the US textile industry strongly opposed including Vietnam in the TPP negotiation ( I am not surprised.

  2. I believe that NAFTA and similar trade agreements are the reason there is even any amount of made in the USA textile and apparel. China can produce things much cheaper and has a higher variety of materials to source from. Without trade regulations Mexico and Canada would mainly source from China and Asia. The textile industry might still stand a chance because of the technology needed to produce the sophisticated textiles. However I’m sure as other countries grow and develop they too will have the capacity to produce advanced textiles. Because the US will most likely not get rid of NAFTA I believe there will still be made in the USA textiles and apparel. I do not think the number is expected or likely increase in the near or far future. The US is more suitable and stronger in other areas of export that it does not need to try to bring back more apparel manufacturing when it’s already been gone for so long.

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