(click the picture to enlarge)
“These four million U.S. workers – seen and unseen – help you get dressed every day. They design shoes and clothes, perform research and development, cut and sew, supervise production, handle customs and logistics, ensure product safety compliance, market and merchandise product, outfit our troops and work on the sales floor. In addition to these four million workers, there are countless U.S. transportation, distribution, warehousing, and logistics workers who depend on our industry for their jobs.”
“about 75 percent of the retail value of most clothing and footwear comes from non-manufacturing activities that happen entirely inside the United States.”
“Supply chain jobs and manufacturing jobs are equally valuable to the overall health of the U.S. economy. It is wrong to foster a public policy agenda that forces these two groups to compete against each other. ”
Written by Kevin Burke. president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association.
Below, on the right is a textile dyeing mill in Zhejiang Provience, China
A recent study of the United States International Trade Commission reaffirms the special roles played by free trade agreements in supporting the regional trade-production network (RTN) for textile and apparel products in America and promoting the export of U.S.-made textile to developing countries in the region in particular. However, also as mentioned in the report, the influence of such RTN has sustantially declined since the full elimination of quota system in 2005. The implementation of the new FTAs established between US and countries in Asia-Pacific pose new uncertanties to the RTN in America, given the trade diversion effect commonly seen in FTAs.
A great commentary article on a recent study on trade protectionist measures by Chad Bown, a former professor from Brandeis university and a guru on trade remedy measures. It is interesting to note that the using of trade protectionist measures is much less frequent today than in the past. I agree with the reasons proposed by the article, such as the establishment of the WTO as a monitoring body, global production and emerging markets instead of developed countries becoming leading importers. On the other hand, trade protectionist measures are taking more diversified forms today and the scope has gone far beyond the traditional AD, CVD and safeguard measures. In particuar, measures that intend to promote export potentially could raise new trade disputes among leading exporters.
The full report can be downloaded from here
This article from the Economist echoes some recent arguments that with China’s rising wages, manufacturing jobs could move back to the developed countries. The article says that: “for some manufacturers low wage costs are becoming less important because labor represents only a small part of the overall cost of making and selling their products.”
However, such view is questionable. If labor cost only accounted for a minimum proportion of the total production cost, why would firms care about the rising labor cost? Also, more and more products made in China are sold locally today rather than shipped back to the US or other developed markets. Therefore, for many sectors (such as softgoods) despite the rising labor cost, leaving China is not always a workable option.