How many U.S. consumers are willing to spend $1,300 for a blazer, $170 for a dress shirt, $80 for a tie and $390 for a pair of jeans?

Recently, WSJ wrote a story about apparel “made in USA”. Although apparel manufacturing will never disappear in the U.S. (as the case elsewhere in the world), neither is it likely that those lost labor-intensive manufacturing jobs in the apparel sector will come back in the future. Why? Just ask yourself: Am I willing to spend $1,300 for a blazer, $170 for a dress shirt, $80 for a tie and $390 for a pair of jeans? These are the price tags associated with “Made in USA” for apparel.

Apparel is not a single case. If you’d like to enjoy your iPhone “Made in USA”, please add two “00” to the current price tag. Like it or not?

Similar questions can also be raised to the Europeans, Chinese, Koreans and everyone else in the world. For example, what will happen if China does not import U.S. cotton but totally relies on its domestic supply? What will happen if each country tries to produce their own air plane instead of using Boeing’s aircraft? How about European retailers only accept credit card issued by an European financial service provider and reject Visa or America Express? And how long will it take to deliver a package to Asia if FedEx and UPS are not allowed to operate in these regions? Will these “changes” improve or worsen people’s daily life? The answer is obvious.

Globalization does not mean “Made in China”nor “Made in USA”. Rather, it means “Made in the World” based on each country’s comparative advantage, it means getting access to the world resources and using them more wisely and more efficiently. Why not everyone engages in doing something they are good at doing and then exchange? This is why we go grocery instead of growing vegetables nor raising cows by ourselves today. 

Globalization also means a product now can reach the world market beyond the limited domestic market. But a country can only successfully export when another country is willing to import. This is why we need to support trade liberalization so that every country can export more of those products they are competitive in making. And definitely more jobs will be created domestically. I mean every country that engages in such global “exchange”.

We no longer live in the 15th century when the Mercantilism was born. In the 21st century, export is good and import is equally good for the economy. Embrace globalization and enjoy better life~  

Sheng Lu 

Data source: American  Apparel and Footwear Association (2012)

Data source: U.S.-China Business Council

TPP and the U.S. Textile Manufacturing Industry

The Congressional Research Service just released its most recent study on the U.S. textile manufacturing industry and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiation. This is also one of the limited reference available so far that specifically addresses the sectoral impacts of TPP.

Overall, this report did a good job of compiling latest statistics showing the operation of the regional trade & production network between the United States and those developing countries in central and south America. It also discusses why the U.S. textile industry appears to be very nervous about Vietnam.

However, the study wasn’t able to quantify the impact of TPP, which leaves potential for future studies. On the other hand, although debates over TPP centers upon the rules of origin, we shall not forget about foreign investment–especially when geographically Vietnam is very close to China, Japan and South Korea. Even yarn-forward is adopted, why cannot Chinese factories move their factories to Vietnam? It shall be noted that China’s economy is undergoing structural change and it’s the time for some Chinese factories to “go offshore”. 

Full text of the report can be found here.

 

OTEXA identifies top export markets for U.S. textile and apparel

The Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) recently released its 2012 Going Global Report, which identifies 15 top export markets for U.S. made textiles and apparel. The report also includes statistical profile of these 15 countries, including their GDP per capita, GDP growth and bilateral trade with the United States in recent years.

It is interesting to note that the top export markets for textile and for apparel are very different. Wonder why? Please think about the “stages of development theory” we discussed in class.

HS code refers to the “Harmonized tariff schedule” (HS), a classification system for commodities. Textile and apparel are covered by HS code chapter 50-63. Detailed list can be found at http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/bychapter/index.htm

The report can be downloaded from here

WTO Public Forum 2012: “Is Multilateralism in crisis?”

For your reference. Many issues are relevant to textile and apparel sectors (for example: global value chain, trade and job, trade facilitation, competition policy, intelletrual property right protection, green economy, pluralism/regionalism as well as trade and development).  

This year’s WTO Public Forum will debate:

  • formulating new approaches to multilateral trade opening in areas such as trade facilitation;
  • addressing 21st-century issues and identifying areas in need of new regulations;
  • looking at the role of non-state actors in strengthening the multilateral trading system

The session will cover the following sessions

  • Global value chain: implications for trade policy
  • Trade and job
  • The multilateral trading system in the 21st century: interaction between trade and competition policy
  • Plurilaterals and Bilaterals: Guardians or Gravediggers of the WTO?

This year’s Ideas Workshops will cover:

  • How to ensure green economy policies are implemented in a co-ordinated manner rather than at cross-purposes?
  • The future of the WTO dispute settlement system.
  • Rethinking trade-related aspects of intellectual property in today’s global economy.

WTO’s first ever Youth Ambassadors, selected by separate video and essay contests, will discuss the topic “How can trade promote development?”

US: Yarn-forward rule row flares up again

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A row has flared up again over the yarn-forward rule of origin in US free trade agreements after The Hosiery Association (THA) called for a knit-to-shape, assembly-only exception for socks and hosiery in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Three textile trade associations have now written to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk expressing their “strong opposition” to the proposal.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), National Council of Textile (NCTO) Organizations, and American Fiber Manufacturers Association (AFMA) say any such move “conflicts with the US textile industry’s longstanding support” of a yarn-forward rule of origin for textiles and apparel.

The yarn-forward rule requires all stages of production – from yarn spinning to fabric formation and final garment assembly – to be done either in the United States or in an FTA partner country to qualify for duty-free treatment.

US textile groups say the rule is “long-established” and “logical” because the value of a finished item comes from its components, rather than from its final assembly.

But American retailers, apparel brands, manufacturers and importers argue it is too restrictive, hinders new trade and investment in the sector, and renders most existing trade ineligible for preferential tariff treatment.

The Hosiery Association wants the TPP pact – currently being negotiated by the US, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Peru – to allow hosiery producers to source yarns for man-made fibre socks and hosiery outside the TPP region in all instances except in the case of 100% cotton and polyester products.

But “this proposal would be a massive blow to US and other TPP producers who manufacture acrylic, nylon and various other types of man-made fibre yarns,” the textile groups say.

“In short, the THA proposal allows yarns currently made in large quantities in the United States to be sourced from third parties, notably China,” the letter says.

Technology is driving a revolution in manufacturing

A latest comment made by the Economist on Peter Marsh’s book The New Industrial Revolution.

As metioned in our class, globalization does not mean “made in China” or “off-shore production”, but rather a much freeer movement of goods, services, capital and labor around the world, thanks to the economic growth, lowered trade & investment barriers and advancement of technologies.

In today’s global economy, “any firm, anywhere, can hook up to a global supply chain. A product may be designed in one country and assembled in another, using components from dozens more. Even a small local manufacturer can use the best suppliers the world has to offer.”

This concept is associated with the “new international division of labor” concept, which we will discuss this coming Tuesday.

Garment-Factory Fire in Pakistan Kills 300 Trapped Behind Locked Doors

In the class, we just mentioned that the conditions under which our clothing were made significantly vary from country to country. Compared with the vidoes we watched yesterday, the story covered by the news is such a sharp contrast.

However, we may also want to think: despite the far-from pleasant working environment, why pepole in Pakistan are still willing to work there? As a consumer or professional in the US fashion apparel industry, what we can do to help improve the working conditions as shown in the picture? and what role can international trade play in helping developing countries like Pakistan to achieve economic development?

As reported by the New York Times article :

“Textiles are a major source of foreign currency for Pakistan, accounting for 7.4 percent of its gross domestic product in 2011 and employing 38 percent of the manufacturing work force. Pakistani cotton products are highly sought in neighboring India and form the backbone of a burgeoning fashion industry that caters to the elite. President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has often called on the United States to drop tariff barriers to Pakistani textile imports, which it says would be preferable to traditional aid.”

We will gradually touch these critical issues in the later part of the course. Stay tuned.