Blog Articles

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Manufacturing-related Fashion Jobs Continue to Drop in the U.S.

A recent study released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that manufacturing-related fashion jobs in the United States will continue to drop through 2020. Although the occupation of sewing machine operator is projected to face the most significant shrinkage in employment, the job decline is suggested to be an industry-wide phenomenon. According to the BLS, from 2003 to 2012, the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry (NAICS 315) had lost 57.7% of its jobs.

The question open for discussion, yet critical for textile& apparel major college graduates, is that how might the decline in manufacturing affect the destiny of other aspects of the U.S. fashion industry in the long run, such as the design and product development functions. No industry sector can survive as an island. As argued by the world’s leading scholar on the subject Michael Porter in his numerous studies addressing the industry competitiveness, the availability and strength of the local supporting industries have a key role to play in shaping the competitiveness of an industry in a nation. For example, the reason why the United States remains the world leading man-made fiber producer today is largely because the U.S. chemistry industry is able to provide needed inputs (such as raw material, technology and knowhow). By the same token, if fabrics are no longer locally made, compared with their overseas competitors such as Italy and China, the U.S. fashion designers might also be put at a big disadvantage in sourcing the needed material and developing the sample products in a timely manner, with flexible choices and at a reasonable cost.

Technology is another critical  factor contributing to job decline in the U.S. fashion industry. As the 2008 study Forecasting the US fashion industry with industry professionals—Part I material and design concluded that “design and production processes would rely heavily on computer and digital technology…the apparel package in the U.S., including creative design, will possibly migrate offshore with the exceptions of heavily technology-involved design and product development tasks.”   

In the meanwhile, the retail sector remains a robust job creator for textile & apparel major college graduates. From 2003 to 2012, total employment in the U.S. apparel retail industry (NAICS 4482) increased 5.7%. By 2012, almost 80% of the occupations in the U.S. textile and apparel industry were offered by retailers. 

by Sheng Lu

fashion_12_lrg

2

1

Is clothing “made in USA” more ethical? How “ethical” should be defined?

It has become a commonly held view that apparel workers in many developing countries are unfairly treated because they are much lower paid compared with their counterparts in the developed countries.  For example, American Apparel, a company that insists all of its products made in USA, claims itself to be sweatshop-free on the basis that it pays workers an hourly wage of $12.  However, does an hourly wage of $12 in the USA necessarily mean more “ethical” than an hourly wage of several cents in a poor developing country like Bangladesh?  

An often ignored fact is that in many developing countries, jobs in the apparel sector are better paid than positions in other sectors. For example, according to a recent study conducted by the World Bank, in Bangladesh, wage level in its apparel sector is 17.7% higher than the average level of all sectors, 72.2% higher than the wage level in the agriculture sector and 4.5% higher than the wage level in the service sector. This is not surprising, because in many developing countries, “moving from agriculture and low-end services into apparel jobs is a channel for social upgrading” (Lopez-Acevedo & Robertson, 2012).

Then, what does an hourly wage of $12 mean in a developed country like the United States? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, in 2012, average wage level in the U.S. apparel manufacturing sector (NAICS 315) is 26.2% below the average wage level of all sectors. More specifically, the average wage level for the production occupations is 47.3% below the national average level and 53.6% below the national average level for sewing machine operators, the exact type of job that the hourly wage of $12 refers to. 

The point to make here after the comparison is that it is misleading to define “ethical” or comment on “corporate social responsibility” without putting the matter in the context of the stage of development and the nature of the economy.  Wage level is not determined by good will, but by the principle of economics 101.

By Sheng Lu

apparel payment

Untitled

TPP updates: Hong Kong and South Korean textile firms increase FDI in Vietnam

The American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam recently updates the textile & apparel sectoral negotiation under the TPP. At this point, different stake holders in the negotiation still hold divided views on a number of key issues, such as the rules of origin and short supply list. It is not a country line, but a line between different business types. What is also interesting to watch is that textile firms from Hong Kong and South Korea have taken actions to seize the “strategic opportunity” of investing in Vietnam. In the long run, it is not positive news for the U.S. textile mills to see Vietnam become more self-dependent on textile supply. However, few people believe TPP would conclude by the end of this year…

Full text of the article:

In Vietnam in preparation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership duty-free exports of apparel from Vietnam to the USA in accordance with the Textiles and Apparel Chapter rules of origin.

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) asked USTR Michael Froman at the Jun 6, 2013 Senate Finance Committee hearing on the nomination, ” … a poorly negotiated TPP agreement could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs in the textile sector … If confirmed as the U.S. Trade Representative, will you support the yarn-forward rule of origin?”

Ambassador Froman replied, “The short answer is yes. We have made clear that we need clear rules of origin with yarn-forward at the center, we need rules against trans-shipments … the yarn-forward fule is a central part of our approach to textiles.” Click this link to see a C-SPAN video of the Senate Finance Committee hearing (0:27:41).

The “yarn forward” rule of origin means that all products in a garment from the yarn stage forward must be made in one of the countries that is party to the TPP agreement. In simple terms, the “yarn forward” rule means that the benefits of the agreement accrue to producers in TPP member countries rather than producers in non-TPP countries.

Perhaps in response, Mr. Nguyen Vu Tung, Deputy Chief of Mission at Vietnam’s Embassy to the USA in Washington, said at a conference on Jun 19, 2013, that the latest U.S. offer “is really, really difficult for us to accept.” Unless the two sides can reach a breakthrough, “I’m really concerned about the prospect of Vietnam to conclude the successful negotiation of TPP,” he said. According to the report, ”U.S. textile producers sell billions of dollars of yarn and fabric each year to U.S. free trade partners in Latin America, where it is turned into clothing and sent back to the United States. They fear without the yarn forward rule, Vietnam will be able to shut down that trade by importing yarn and fabric from China to make clothing to ship duty-free to the United States.”

Deputy Chief of Mission Nguyen Vu Tung made the comment at a conference organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington on The Trans-Pacific Partnership: New Rules for a New Era, Jun 19, 2013 (3 hours), with opening remarks by Robert Zoellick, former U.S. Trade Representative, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and former World Bank President. Click the link to see a video of the webinar.

While political leaders and diplomats discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership rules of origin, Hong Kong, South Korean, and Australian firms are developing and planning major textiles FDI in Vietnam to produce yarn and fabric, the supporting textiles industry for apparel production.

Korea’s Kyungbang inaugurates new $40 million yarn facility in Binh Duong; plan to develop the largest yarn-spinning in Asia. When the plant is extended in its second and third phase (with registered investment of $160 million), it will be the largest mill in Asia.

Hong Kong’s Texhong to invest $300 million, Pacific Textiles $180 million in new textile facilities in Vietnam, in preparation for TPP

Texhong has has already invested $200 million in a plant in Dong Nai Province, and committed in Jul 2012 $300 million to a factory in Quang Ninh, which should be operational in the 2nd half of 2013.

Last year [2012] Texhong said it would invest $300 million to build a new yarn factory in Quang Ninh.. When the second-phase investment is completed next year [2014] its annual capacity will more than double to 110,000 tonnes of yarn.

Australia’s Woolmark® helps develop yarn-forward wool products in Vietnam. Today there are close to 50 companies in Vietnam using Australian wool. “When we started the project, none of the manufacturing partners knew anything about wool, and some of them had never even felt it,” said AWI project manager Jimmy Jackson. Initially we ran training courses to explain wool’s properties, benefits and features for manufacturing and producing garments. The next step was to introduce the manufacturers to suppliers of Australian wool yarns. We also had to explain the Woolmark standards and requirement in terms of both wear and laundering performance. Now that the Vietnamese manufacturers are confident in producing quality wool garments, AWI will introduce them to global retail and brand buyers.

Can the U.S. Negotiate a High-standard TPP

From 30′–38′ was the remark made by Steve Lamar, Executive Vice President of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA). From the view of the U.S. apparel industry, TPP will help diversify the import sources, promote export (note: AAFA members “produce everywhere and sell everywhere in the world”) and facilitate regulatory coherence of trade regulations. Steve hoped that the TPP outcome will be: 1) useable and relevant to the business community, not only for today, but also for the next 20 years; 2) can provide flexibility for AAFA members in implementing their supply chain strategy in today’s global economy.  Steve also believes that complication is the largest obstacle for the TPP negotiation, given the increasing number of countries getting involved and so many agendas included.

Other distinguished speaker in the event include Barbara Weisel, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Barbara summarized the TPP history, the perspectives from the USTR and latest negotiation updates, very informative.

A Global View in Mind Means More Job and Career Oppertunities in the Fashion Apparel Industry

(Note: the functions & jobs below the U.S. flag mean they are based in the United States;  Remember, apparel are “made in the world”–just like iphone and ipad. Even imports contain U.S. added value.)

021313_Moongate_Assoc_Global_Value_Chain_Report

Source: Moongate Association (2012). Analyzing the Value Chain for Apparel Designed in the United States and Manufactured Overseas

Building Collapse Kills 200 Bangladeshi Garment Workers

jp-bangladesh1-articleLarge

When can tragedy as such come to an end!?

NewYork Times reports today (April 25, 2013)

“A building housing several factories making clothing for European and American consumers collapsed into a deadly heap on Wednesday, only five months after a horrific fire at a similar facility prompted leading multinational brands to pledge to work to improve safety in the country’s booming but poorly regulated garment industry.

The Bangladeshi news media reported that inspection teams had discovered cracks in the structure of Rana Plaza on Tuesday. Shops and a bank branch on the lower floors immediately closed. But the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors ordered employees to work on Wednesday, despite the safety risks.

International attention was focused on labor conditions in Bangladesh five months ago, with the fatal fire at Tazreen Fashions, a garment factory near Dhaka. That fire brought pledges from government officials and many global companies to tighten safety standards.

Bangladesh is the world’s second-leading garment exporter, trailing only China, but the industry has been plagued by concerns over safety and angry protests over rock-bottom wages. The industry has grown rapidly in the past decade, particularly as rising wages in China have pushed many global clothing companies to look for lower costs elsewhere. Bangladesh has the lowest labor costs in the world, with the minimum wage for garment workers set at roughly $37 a month.

Such low labor costs have attracted not just Walmart but almost every major global clothing company, including Sears, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and many others. Bangladesh now has more than 5,000 garment factories, employing more than 3.2 million workers, many of them women, and advocates credit the industry for lifting people out of poverty, even with such low wages. Exports also provide a critical source of foreign exchange that helps the government offset the high costs of imported oil.

But critics have argued that the outsize importance of the industry has made the government reluctant to take steps that could increase costs or alienate foreign brands. Labor unions are almost nonexistent, and a labor organizer, Aminul Islam, was tortured and murdered last year. The case remains unsolved. Meanwhile, some factory owners say they cannot raise wages or invest in upgrading facilities because of the low prices paid by Western brands.

The news was also covered by CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/25/world/asia/bangladesh-building-collapse/index.html

NPR News Discussion

http://www.npr.org/2013/05/02/180557959/ethical-fashion-is-the-tragedy-in-bangladesh-a-final-straw

Impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Textile and Apparel Trade in the Pacific Rim

TPP on T&A trade in the pacific rim

Citation: Lu, S. (2013). Impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on textile and apparel trade in the Pacific Rim. World Trade Organization Focus, 20(5), 67-77.

For questions, please contact the author: shenglu@mail.uri.edu

Three U.S. Textile Organizations Merge

NCTO-logo

If you’ve finished the third part of the T-shirt book, you should remember Auggie Tantillo and the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) under his leadership. On March 28, 2013,  AMTAC together with the National Textile Association (NTA) joined the National Council of Textile Organization (NCTO), which will become the flagship organization representing the interests of the U.S. textile industry (textile mills and texile product mills which produce fibers, yarns, fabrics, home textiles and industrial textiles). This new movement could strengthen the voice of the U.S. textile industry in Washington DC, but at the same time can also be read as a sign of the declining industry base of AMTAC and NCTO.

The press release of the merger can be downloaded from here

China’s chair left unoccupied at Obama’s free trade party

Yesterday in class, some of you asked why did the U.S. decide to join the TPP negotiation at the very beginning? The following report from the Financial Times (UK) may provide some insightful views. To put it simply, it is a big game involving national interests. You can also rethink about those points I mentioned in the class regarding the “strategic importance of Asia to the US”.

From Financial Times April 2, 2013

With the rise of China in its sights, the Obama administration has posted marines in Darwin, Australia, and increased the number of warships visiting Subic Bay in the Philippines. The “pivot” to Asia now has a new stopover: Brussels.

After years of discussing the idea, the US and the EU are finally starting to negotiate a free-trade agreement which would form an economic zone covering 40 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.

At the same time, momentum is building on another important trade initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which brings together the US with several of the Asia-Pacific region’s most dynamic economies: Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and – since two weeks ago – Japan. It will come as a surprise to anyone who spent a lot of time on the campaign trail last year, but free-trade agreements have emerged as one of the biggest priorities of Barack Obama’s second term as US president.

The striking feature of this burst of free trading is who is absent. The agreements are one of the fresh ways Washington is developing to deal with China, the world’s biggest exporter of manufactured goods. After urging China to behave as “a responsible stakeholder” and after the brief flirtation with a G2 arrangement in Mr Obama’s first year, the latest trade approach might be characterised as ABC – Anyone But China.

Supporters of the US-EU trade pact complain that it is about more than China. They point to the boost to growth that could flow from a deal between two partners which already have a two-way annual trade in goods and services of $1tn.

However, much of the substance of the EU talks and of TPP points to China. The agenda includes state subsidies for business and protecting intellectual property – the sorts of issues that are huge bones of contention with Beijing.

If the US can get enough important countries to sign up, it hopes to establish global trading standards that China would feel obliged to respect.

On Capitol Hill, where free trade is not an easy sell in an era of unemployment of more than 7.5 per cent, the China angle helps to rally support.

“This is very much part of our China strategy,” an aide to a leading Republican senator puts it, talking of the discussions with the EU.

More broadly, the two negotiations reflect a different approach to global governance. Prolonged deadlock over the Doha trade round, with similar stalemates about climate change, small arms and other issues, has led to deep scepticism about the idea of achieving global agreements on important issues.

TPP and the US-EU trade talks represent an alternative strategy, an attempt to forge fresh rules by appealing to smaller groups of like-minded nations, in this case working around China rather than with Beijing. Supporters say this is not an abandonment of global institutions like the World Trade Organisation, but simply a realistic assessment of how to get things done.

The big question, of course, is how China will react. Ever since it joined the WTO more than a decade ago, China has had one foot inside the global trading system and one outside it.

On most of the occasions that China has lost legal challenges at the WTO, it has implemented the rulings and made its trade laws compliant. But Beijing has yet to open up government procurement, an important factor in an economy like China’s. At the same time, allegations of Chinese hacking of trade secrets from other countries are seen by many as an affront to the very idea of free trade.

Beijing has strong views about what is really going on.

“The US is trying to rewrite global trade rules behind our backs,” says a senior Chinese official.

The risk of the US approach is that it could encourage China to turn its back even further on the global trading system, diminishing the incentive to comply rather than intensifying it.

If that were to happen, the US-EU trade talks would not herald a new era of economic integration but rather another nail in the coffin of globalisation.

 

Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

20130213ustr460x210

From Just Style, March 2013

Textile and clothing industry groups on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed the news that the EU and the US are to commence talks on the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated.

European Union (EU) clothing and textile industry association Euratex has hailed the launch of talks between the United States and the EU to forge what the European Commission calls the “biggest bilateral trade deal ever,” saying EU exporters will benefit.

A deal, once sealed, could eliminate American duties as high as 19%, says Euratex.

The EU’s textile and clothing industry already has a positive trade balance with the US. “Tariffs are still high in the US” for textile and clothing, Euratex president Alberto Paccanelli has stressed.

And it is worse when it comes to exporting products containing wool where the “duties are generally higher, sometimes above 19%,” Luisa Santos, head of international trade at Euratex, told just-style.

So “we expect to have duty-free access from the entry into force of the agreement and we are willing to give the same benefit to the US,” Ms Santos noted. With exports being highly price-sensitive, an elimination of the duties could “help substantially our competitiveness in the market.”

The EU’s textile and clothing exports to the US have been steadily increasing and are already substantial. In 2009, these exports stood at EUR2.8bn (US$3.7bn) and in 2010, they rose to EUR3.3bn, while they reached EUR3.7bn in 2011.

In negotiations, the EU would have a “forward looking approach” in terms of tariff and duty-free access from day one, according to Santos.

US sees opportunity

There was also optimism from American importers and retailers. Julie Hughes, president of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA), said a free trade agreement “presents a terrific opportunity” to remove duties and resolve regulatory issues that hold back trade between the US and the EU.

“We are especially enthusiastic about the launch of the US-EU trade negotiations,” Hughes told just-style adding: “Many people don’t realise that the EU is actually one of the top destinations for US exports of yarns, fabrics, and apparel” or that US brands import yarns and fabrics from the EU to manufacture ‘Made in the USA’ garments.

However some US groups are concerned because of different tax and regulatory regimes between the two regions.

“We are eagerly watching how the US government is going to engage with the EU,” said David Trumbull, vice president of the USA’s National Textile Association.

He is concerned about the fact that the US does not have the comprehensive sales tax systems in place in Europe, which do not apply for exports. Meanwhile, American producers can pay more through income tax or corporate tax: so US exporters could be placed at a comparative tax disadvantage, also having to pay VAT in Europe.

He said: “We do not want to get subjected to double taxation when exporting to the EU while EU producers get away with paying import duties to the US.”

Other issues to discuss

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the European Commission is compiling an impact study on “which sector benefits how”, said Helene Banner, EU trade spokesperson. The study will be released in two months.

An earlier report from the EU-US High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG) had, noted Banner, recommended “eliminating all duties on bilateral trade, with a substantial elimination of tariffs upon entry into force, and a phasing out of all but the most sensitive tariffs in a short time frame.”

But there are host of other issues to discuss, notably, labelling, safety and consumer protection, during clothing and textile talks.

One issue is that “the information that has to be included on the label is more extensive in the US than in the EU,” Ms Santos stressed. For instance, the US has mandatory origin labelling – which is currently only a (recent) proposal in the EU.

And when it comes to safety and consumer protection, the US has its own legislation that varies from the EU. – for example requirements in terms of testing.

Santos said it is important to focus on “harmonisation to reduce costs for companies, especially small-and-medium enterprises in both sides of the Atlantic”.

Brussels and Washington aim to conclude the talks “ideally in about two years from now,” said EU trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht: “But more paramount than speed is achieving an ambitious deal.”

The European Commission will present draft negotiating directives to the EU Council of Ministers for approval in March and similar proposals are being sent to the US Congress. “Both sides aim to advance fast once negotiations are started,” added Banner.

2013 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda Hearing

This year’s USTR trade agenda hearing at the senate finance committee is quite interesting. Ron Kirk just stepped down and Demetrios took the testimony as the acting USTR. Demetrios looks both young and smart. I am not sure whether he is among the top candidates to be considered for the USTR position but his congressional working experiences and legal background make him at least a qualified candidate in my view. Nevertheless, USTR usually is a political appointee. More interesting to watch is Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman now serve in the same committee. Sherrod obviously holds a very suspicious view about trade liberalization. As I remember he was the only senator who raised question focusing on import restrictions. Demetrios looked like a student before Rob Portman understandably.  Attending such a hearing should make Portman feel quite special too. “Unfortunately”, now he has to speak more for Ohio than for globalization.  TPA (Trade Promotion Act) turned out to be the No.1 hot topic in today’s hearing.  Japan & TPP raised grave concerns as well. I am not sure whether it is the best timing to accept Japan into the TPP. This unavoidably will make the agriculture & auto related negotiations much more challenging than otherwise.    Something a little surprising to me is China was not targeted very often today.

By Sheng Lu

Minimum Wage and Unemployment

minimum-wage

Although the graph above talks about the U.S. economy, the underlying principle applies to all countries in the world: raising minimum wage may reduce employment. The reason is fairly simple: just like how we purchase clothing given a cerain amount of budget, the higher the price, the less quantity we purchase. Similarily, when labor becomes more expensive, to reach the profit goal, companies also have to reduce hiring people if productivity remains unchanged. 

Moreover, a higher minimum wage makes capital, another production input, relatively cheaper. This is why in many developed countries, more and more machines are being used in production in replace of labor. The choice of labor versus capital is based on their relative cost and abundance. 

With that, it is easier to understand why many developing countries show grave concerns about paying more to their workers. The competition is so fierce in the textile & apparel industry and companies can hardly afford an increase of production cost. The only difference with the case of the U.S. economy is: because developing coutries have no money to capitalize production and apparel manufacturing is labor intensive in nature, therefore, a rising minimum wage will simply result in a shift of production to other places where cheaper labors are available.

Outlook of the U.S. Textile Industry in 2013

The latest industry outlook proposed by the Textile World argues that in 2013 the U.S. textile industry will improve industry strategy and planning in the following areas:

  • increased management emphasis in such areas as sourcing, inventory control
  • use of more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment
  • new and upgraded consumer products,
  • more ecologically friendly offerings
  • more Made-in-USA labels

 Don’t misunderstand/misinterpret these terms. The proposed strategies actually tell us:

1. the U.S. textile industry will become even more capitalized in production (as the result of “using more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment”).

2. the success of the U.S. textile industry relies on import (that’s why “management of sourcing” is suggested to be emphasized), despite the intension to promote “made in USA” label which has more to do with the current “rules of origin” defining the nationality of the products.

3. the softgoods industry (textile, apparel and related retailing) is a highly buyer-driven industry. Even textile mills have realized the importance of understanding and directly reaching the consumers.

4. sustainability is a major factor driving technical reform and upgrading in the textile industry. Other than the environmental concerns, there is another strategy behind the efforts: when the U.S. textile industry is fully ready to “be able to produce in a sustainable way”, it will ask for legislation support to require “everybody”(including imported products) to meet the same environmental standards(professionally, we call it “technical barriers of trade”). Developing countries can compete on price, but definitely cannot compete on technology and capital which are the basis of achieving “sustainability”.  Bu then, you will see sustainability becomes a real game changer.     

 Another relevant forecast made by the article “But holding these costs down through efficiency gains can also have a negative impact —namely, a smaller industry workforce. In the textile sector, for instance, squeezed by productivity gains, overall employment should drop from 232,000 in 2012 to near 209,000 by 2015.” As we menioned in the class, technology kills jobs too, although new types of jobs will be created at the same time–but with totally different skill requirements.

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. “

 

Race against the machine

machinejump3-popup

Remember the four key words I mentioned in the class—globalization, technology, sustainability and leadership?

This is a short but inspiring book to read about technology and its impact on us:

 “When talking about jobs and unemployment, there has been a great deal of attention paid to issues like weak demand, outsourcing and labor mobility, but relatively little attention given to technology’s role. This was a serious omission. “

“Computers are now doing many things that used to be the domain of people only…Our technologies are racing ahead but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind”

“technological progress does not automatically benefit everyone in a society. In particular, incomes have become more uneven, as have employment opportunities.”

For TMD/TM majors & faculties, it is critical (although sometimes painful) to think about: How technology advancement will affect the job availability and nature of the job in the fashion apparel industry in the years to come? Do we have/are we learning the “right skills” that can help us survive in the race against the machine in the 21st century?

China and the US Economy: Advancing a Winning Trade Agenda

figure 1figure 2figure 4figure 5

Last week in class, we discussed what globalization means and why international trade happens. This latest research report released by the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) on the U.S.-China commercial relationships provides latest evidence showing how the world two largest economies are interdependent with each other and mutually benefit from such a close trade partnership.  The report also highlights several key facts about the U.S.-China trade relationship, which often time is misunderstood by the general public.

Full text of the report is available at:

https://www.uschina.org/info/trade-agenda/2013/uscbc-trade-agenda-report.pdf

Is Textile and Apparel Manufacturing Coming back to the U.S.?

output

output growth rate

employment

employment growth rate

Preliminary Findings:

1. As suggested by numerous studies, the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole demonstrated a robust V-shaped recovery from the 2008 financial crisis in terms of industry output.   Growth rate of the industry output from 2010-2011 was also among the highest in the past 10 years.

2. There is no sign yet that textile and apparel (T&A) manufacturing is coming back to the U.S, despite suggested popularity of “insourcing” as result of rising labor cost in China. However, the decline rate of apparel manufacturing in the U.S. seemed to be slowing down.

3. Jobless recovery happened both in the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole and in the T&A manufacturing sectors. Particularly, the U.S. T&A industry respectively lost 21.0% and 25.6% of its manufacturing jobs from 2008-2012 compared with only 10.8% decline of employment in the manufacturing sector over the same period.  Based on the current data, it can be concluded that a sizable return of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. T&A industry would hardly occur at least in the near future.

Sheng Lu

China’s textile and clothing firms expand in Africa

Faced by rising labor cost, China has started thinking about “going globle” for its T&A sector: not product, but capital.

From Just -Style:

“According to William Gumede, a senior research fellow at the University of Witwatersrand’s school of public and development management in South Africa, Chinese domination of Africa’s textile markets and its industry has promoted significant job losses.

“For instance in South Africa, employment in the textile industry dropped from 300,000 workers in 1996 to 120,000 in 2010,” says Gumede when reached for comment by just-style.

And the situation is worse in Nigeria where the country has seen its once burgeoning US$1.3bn spinning industry in disarray, with Chinese cheap fabrics being highlighted as the culprit.

“Since 1995, over 175 textile manufacturing factories have shut down, leaving more than 250,000 workers jobless,” says Jaiyeola Olanrewaju, the director-general of the Nigerian Textiles Manufacturers Association.

And there is concern that some Chinese producers are not playing fair – being accused of mimicking African textile trade marks and unique designs.

“In order to compete favourably, African governments must stop [the] influx of counterfeit and smuggled textiles,” says Dr Walid Jibrin, the chairman of the Northern States Chapter of the Nigerian Textiles Manufacturers Association.

He identifies African prints, shirts, fine wax print textiles, unique Guinea brocades and lace embroideries as examples of African designs and textile trade marks being copied on cheap Asian fabrics and dumped in West Africa.

“The counterfeits have destroyed the handmade traditional textile industry in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Guinea,” says Dele Hunsu, the president of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria.

AGOA’s preferential access
But probably the most devastating effect of the Chinese textile industry on sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth is its ability to piggy-back on the US’s year 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Chinese firms have benefited from the region’s preferential access to the US by establishing Chinese-owned subsidiaries in the region. AGOA of course creates a trading advantage for sub-Saharan Africa’s textile industries to access the United States market.

According to Ms Ciliaka Millicent Gitau, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s School of Economics, its success was rapid but short-lived. By 2005, many Chinese companies had established subsidiaries in countries including Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa.

“The issue is that AGOA did not have rules of origin that would have curbed transhipment of the Chinese textile commodities,” said Gitau who is an expert on the emerging Sino-Africa geo-politics and trade relations.

The result has been local African clothing and textile companies closing, unable to compete with Chinese firms’ aggressive export-oriented tradition, low production costs and technological superiority.

And while AGOA has been extended to 2015, Chinese clothing makers in sub-Saharan Africa will continue exporting more textiles to the US at the expense of African companies.

“In essence, in the last two decades, China has placed itself in a strategic position to reap benefits from sub-Saharan Africa, not only in the textile industry but in other sectors as well,” says Gitau.

New sales opportunities
And Chinese manufacturers are in no mood to pull back. With weakening demand in Europe and the US since the financial crisis, plus continuing disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO) with key mature market trading partners, China’s clothing and textile industry wants to diversify its sales.

From January to August 2012, China Customs figures show textile and apparel exports to the European Union (EU) dropped 14.4% year-on-year to US$32.02bn, while they rose 12.2% to US$9.82bn to Africa.

“We have got lots of inquiries from clients in Africa recently. They are less demanding, and some of them are happy to accept our private brands,” says a director at a Shanghai clothing manufacturer who so far has been supplying the EU, US and Japanese markets.

“There are many economic communities in Africa, which allows us to enter other African countries easily once we are in one of the community countries. We would like to look into the African market,” she adds.

Other Chinese manufacturers are using Africa as a hassle-free, alternative way to access the US and EU markets.

“In Ethiopia, we rent a plant and hire local workers make clothing for clients in the US and EU,” says a business manager at a Shandong province-based textile firm, who stresses that the African Growth and Opportunity Act offers companies such as his legal opportunities to access the US market.

And Chinese companies continue to see Africa not only as a huge market for export, but also a possible place for massive investment.

For example, in August, China Garments, a Beijing-based former state-run manufacturer, announced it will invest about US$29.7m in Zimbabwe to form a joint venture with the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe. The JV is expected to be a major cotton supplier of China Garments.”

What we shall learn from the Bangladesh fire accident?

131998035_51n

1. Is corporate social responsibility a problem ONLY in developing countries?

How ethical is  clothing “made in UK” or “made in USA”? Suggested reading:

ANALYSIS – How ethical is UK manufacturing? (Textile Month International, 2012)

Sweatshops Are Fashion’s Dirty Little Secret. But They Don’t Exist in L.A. — Do They? (2012)

2. As a consumer, shall we be responsible for something too?

Isn’t that we always want better quality products at lower price and delivered at faster speed? Because clothing retail is such a highly competitive buyer-driven business, in order to meet our “demand”, isn’t companies have to find a way to increase product quality, shorten production time, frequently change design patterns but stick to the old delivery schedule and lower sourcing cost? Can we say the “race to the bottom” CRS practice in clothing factories has nothing to do with us as consumers?

3. Some people suggest: since there are so many ethical problems in developing countries, why not we just move apparel manufacturing back to the US or EU?

 If you ask these garment workers in Bangladesh, they would tell you that despite the horrible working conditions, they still feel “happy” to work there. Before working for the garment factory, their life was even worse—because of poverty and limited opportunity available to them. For example, for many young females in the least developing countries, if they do not work for garment factories, the other place for them to go is prostitution. We need to think about this question: if the Bangladesh factory was forced to close (Western brands no longer give them the order), what would happen to its workers?

4. Why internationally we still have no official labor standard, despite we have international organizations such as ILO, WTO, World Bank and United Nations out there as well as many international rules in other areas?

The nature of the problem is very similar as the ongoing global climate change negotiation. Countries are at different stages of development and what seems “ethical” may not necessarily fit for another country’s national conditions.

But still, everyone has a role to play to improve the status quo and create a better world, no matter as a consumer, professional working in the T&A industry, scholar or policy maker.

Sheng Lu

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

polyester-yarn-import-175429_189210

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.

Apparel Market: Landscape of Change

An article from the Textile World Highlights:

  • The global apparel retail industry grew by 3.4% in 2011 to reach a value of $1,175,353.1 million. In 2016, the global apparel retail industry is forecast to have a value of $1,348,098.8 million, an increase of 14.7% since 2011.  Americas accounts for 36% of the global apparel retail industry value.
  • Technlogy is changing consumers’ shopping behavior as well as preferences (such as redefining value of products). The internet, smartphones and social networking are driving the apparel industry to a greater extent than ever before.
  • “Made in USA” is attracting consumers, however, to be more accurate, it means “source in the Western Hemisphere” rather than moving manufacturing totally back in the U.S.. However, in order to have “near sourcing” happen, addtional trade liberalization is required to remove the so much constraints.  
  • Supply chain transparancy and cooridnation is with growing significance to the success of business in the apparel companies.
  • The only constant in the apparel industry is change (enviorment, business model, product innovation, technology…).