Pattern of U.S. Textile and Apparel Imports (Updated: February 2015)

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Total U.S. textile and apparel imports enjoy steady growth from 2000 to 2014. From 2013 to 2014, value of apparel imports increased 2.5 percent and imports of fabric increased 5.4 percent. However, value of fiber imports declined 1.9 percent over the same period. Almost all fastest growing import categories from 2004 to 2014 are basic apparel.

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Because the United States is no longer a major apparel manufacturer but one of the largest apparel consumption markets in the world, apparel products accounted for 76.1 percent of total U.S. textile and apparel imports in 2014. Fabrics and yarns accounted for 5.8 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

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While developing countries dominated apparel supply to the United States in 2014, developed countries remain important suppliers of textiles. For certain industrial textile products such as non-woven textiles, nearly 50 percent of imports still came from European Union (28), Canada and Japan. This pattern reflects different product nature of apparel (labor intensive) and textiles (capital intensive) as well as the respective comparative advantage of developing and developed economies.

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Overall, pattern of apparel imports is in parallel with apparel retail sales in the U.S. market. This reflects the fact that demand for imports is largely shaped by macro-economic conditions. It should also be noted that despite the heated discussion on “reshoring” apparel manufacturing in the U.S., apparel imports is NOT declining.

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By value, China accounted for 38.9 percent of total U.S. textile and apparel imports in 2014, which was slightly lower than the level of 39.8 percent in 2013. It should be noted that China’s market shares significantly varies by category. Within the total 167 number of textile and apparel product categories complied by the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), China enjoyed market share increase for 119 categories and suffered market share losses for 49 categories from 2004 to 2014 (many are sewing thread products).

Latest Trends in the US Apparel Industry (update: January 2015)

Latest statistics released by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) indicate several trends in the U.S. apparel industry:

  • First, the retail market is gradually recovering. According to AAFA, on average, every American spent $907 on clothing (or purchased 64 garments) in 2013. Although this figure is still less than the one before the 2008 financial crisis, it is the highest level since 2012.
  • Second, “Made in USA” is growing but US consumers still rely on imports. Data from AAFA shows that US apparel production increased 6.2 percent from 2012 to 2013, accounting for 2.55% share of U.S. apparel market. However, nearly 98% of apparel consumed in the US were still imports in 2013.
  • Third, China remains the top apparel supplier to the United States. Despite the concerns about the rising production cost in China, latest data from OTEXA shows that, in 2014 (January to November) China still accounted for 42.5% of US apparel imports in terms of quantity and 39.1% in terms of value–almost the highest level in history. These two numbers were 41.7% and 39.9% a year earlier. On the other hand, Vietnam’s market share has reached 9.3% (by value) and 10.7% (by quantity) in 2014 (January to November), about ¼ of China’s exports to the United States.
  • Fourth, job market reflects continuous shift of the apparel industry. According to AAFA, among the total 2.8 million workers directly employed by the US apparel industry in 2013, only 5% were in the manufacturing sector, 5% were in the wholesaling sector and as many as 90% were working for retailers. However, within the apparel retail sector, total employment by the department stores is quickly shrinking—dropped 7.6 percent from 2012 to 2013 and cumulatively 21.3 percent from 1998 to 2013. At the same time, specialty clothing stores and sporting goods stores are hiring more people: 13.8% and 64.5% increase of employment from 1998 to 2013 respectively. The contrasting employment trend reflects the changing nature of the U.S. apparel retail market and the channels through which U.S. consumers purchase clothing.
  • Fifth, US consumers are paying higher taxes on imported clothing. Calculated by AAFA, while the overall U.S. imports were only charged by a 1.4% tariff rate, the effective duty rate on all apparel imports rose to 13.6% in 2013. The higher effective duty rate may be caused by the fact that less apparel were imported utilizing free trade agreement or trade preference programs.

Appendix: Facts on the US Apparel Market in 2012

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Data Source: http://www.statista.com/

China Apparel Retail Market (updated in December 2014)

According to Fung Group’s latest China apparel market report:

1. China’s apparel retail market remains strong despite slower growth. China’s apparel retail sales reached 1,141billion RMB (or $187 billion USD) in 2013, rose by 11.6 percent from 2012. On average, each urban household in China spent 1,902 RMB (or $306USD) on clothing in 2013, accounting for 10.6 percent of their total annual expenditure. [note: in the US, clothing accounts for around 3 percent of household annual expenditure]. It is estimated that China will replace the United States and become the world’s largest apparel retail market in 2017.

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2. Women’s wear is the largest contributor to China’s total apparel sales. A survey of 100 major retailers in China shows that women’s wear accounted for 32.7 percent of their clothing sales from 2012 to 2013. However, women’s wear is a highly fragmented and competitive market in China. For example, the top ten brands altogether only accounted for 21.43 percent of market share in 2013.

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3. Children’s wear and sportswear are the two growing areas in China’s apparel market. Specifically, retail sales of children’s wear in China reached 6.3 billion RMB (or $1 billion USD) in 2013, registered growth of 12.7 percent. Because Chinese government has relaxed its “one-child policy”, China is estimated to add 1-2 million extra kids over the next few years, suggesting further market expansion possibility. Thanks to Chinese consumers’ increasing interest in sports and outdoor activities, sales of sportswear enjoyed 35 percent growth from 2012 to 2013. Functional products with fashionable designs are the key to win the market. While international brands (such as Nike and Adidas) are mainly concentrated in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, domestic brands are still dominating the lower-tier cities where more growth potential is involved.

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4. Department stores and specialty stores remained the main channels for apparel distribution in China, accounting for 36.3 percent and 29.7 percent of market share respectively in 2013. Specifically, department store remains the main channel for mid to high-end apparel sales in China, although specialty stores are increasingly preferred by apparel brand owners. As a common business practice in China, apparel brand owners manage their self-operated specialty stores in key cities while leaving other locations to franchisees as distributors. On the other hand, hypermarkets and supermarkets are popular retailing channels for lower-priced apparel, many of which are with poor brand recognition or unbranded.

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5. Online retailing is the fastest growing retail channel in China for apparel. According to one source, the total online apparel transaction value in China reached 434.9 billion RMB (or $36.2 billion USD) in 2013, increased by 42.6 percent from 2012. Similar as the emerging of “omni-channel retailing” in the US, apparel companies operating in China are making more efforts to explore“O2O” (online and offline integration). It shall be noted that more and more overseas apparel brands see e-commerce as a strategic means to reach Chinese consumers. For example, even luxury brands such as Burberry and Hugo Boss have opened online store through a B2C platform (like Tmall) in China.

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6Some additional personal thoughts:

  1. Western apparel brands and retailers shall realize that China is a highly fragmented market with diverse market characteristics from region to region (for example, tier 1 v.s. tier 3 &4; urban v.s. rural; north v.s. south).
  2. Chinese consumers are getting more and more sophisticated, yet price is still a key factor to win this market.
  3. Given the size and sophistication of China’s apparel market, western apparel brands and retailers may consider building an independent China operation system (from design to distribution). Also, successful business models at home market may not work in China at all.

Apparel Industry is Not All about Labor Cost

While most discussions on improving corporate social responsibility practices in the apparel industry still focus on conventional solutions like higher labor standards and more effective monitoring programs, a recent Boston Consulting Group report suggests supply chain innovation also has its role to play.

One key argument of the report is: Although cost still matters in apparel sourcing, lower-cost can be achieved through means other than seeking cheap labor. For example:

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Engendering end-to-end supply chain efficiency through managing raw materials. Apparel companies may work with their suppliers further down the supply chain to optimize fabric selection, which usually account for as much as 60-70 percent of the total cost of a finished garment (v.s. 30-40 percent of labor cost). Some apparel companies have started to use fewer yarns and weight classes so as to reduce fabric count and lower down sourcing cost. Some other companies are realizing significant cost reduction by timing orders so as to level the load over the course of the year. [Note: looks like Uniqlo’s model]

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Building an integrated supply chain. As cited in the report, to balance sourcing cost and speed to market, one major apparel retailer builds 15 to 20 percent of the season’s styles and pre-positions about two-thirds of its raw material before the season (both in-house and from production partners). During the season, the company analyzes sales, staying in constant communication with its stores and with the design team. It resupplies items that are selling well through accelerated production and delivery, usually within three to four days. Designers then create new styles by adapting the best sellers using the pre-positioned material. [Note: looks like Zara’s model]

Innovating ways of production. The report suggests that bonding and gluing technologies (i.e. use bonded adhesive films and processes such as ultrasonic heating and high-frequency radiation to fuse together layers of fabric) can produce an entire small garment in 30 to 40 percent less time than conventional cut-and-sew. Digital technologies such as digital prototyping of textile designs can also significantly help apparel makers reduce waste and boost efficiency in pattern making. The potential application of 3D printing may further allow apparel makers to produce smaller batches, and possibly even allow for made-to-order production of individually designed and sized garments. This would not only allow companies to match the market’s growing need for speed, but also reduce the costs of retail inventory surpluses and associated price reductions.

Two additional thinking based on the report:

First, much attention has been given to the changing business environment of the apparel industry, such as rising labor cost in Asia, shifting market growth towards emerging economies and more sophisticated consumers’ demand in the era of omni-channel retailing. But what if the nature of the apparel industry is also changing: if one day labor cost is no longer a key factor in deciding where to produce and apparel production itself is no longer labor-intensive at all? Although automation of apparel production was not achieved in the 20st century, it may not be something totally impossible in the 21st century. We need to have bold thinking here.

Second, while the apparel industry is innovating its business model (i.e. the way to produce, the way to deliver products and the way to serve its customers), T&A educational programs also need to embrace innovative thinking. For example: are traditional course offerings sufficient enough (or still relevant) to prepare students’ job readiness in the 21st century? How to proactively respond to the changing nature of the apparel industry which has started to adopt more and more new technologies? What if we redefine the meaning of “T&A” majors and redesign the model of preparing the workforce for the apparel industry? (just like the question: for wearable technology, shall IT companies make apparel or apparel companies make IT products?)

U.S. Textile and Apparel Exports in 2013 (Updated in November 2014)

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U.S. textile and apparel (T&A) exports increased by $543 million (3 percent) to $19.8 billion in 2013. However, because import increased by $3.2 billion (3 percent) to $97.5 billion, U.S. trade deficit in T&A increased rose to $97.5 billion in 2013. Imports supplied about 98 percent of U.S. consumer demand for T&A in 2013.

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Textiles account for 83 percent of all U.S. T&A exports in 2013. Exports of these textiles products (particularly fabrics and yarns) are used primarily as intermediate inputs for finished products manufactured abroad, which are then imported back into the United States (USITC, 2014). In terms of value, specialty & industrial fabrics, spun yarns & thread, felts & other non-woven textiles and other made-up textile articles altogether account for nearly half of U.S. T&A exports in 2013. Statistics further show that U.S. apparel exports also grow fast in recent years. However, it shall be noted that a good proportion of them might be used clothing.

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Mexico and Canada remain the top two largest export markets for U.S. T&A in 2013. 66 percent of U.S. T&A exports in 2013 went to the Western Hemisphere (i.e. North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean countries). However, this share has declined from 77.6 percent in 2000. Other leading export markets for U.S. T&A include Honduras, China and Japan.

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Reference:

USITC (2014). Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade. http://www.usitc.gov/press_room/news_release/2014/er1112ll232.htm 

OTEXA (2014). U.S. Imports and Exports of Textiles and Apparel. http://otexa.trade.gov/msrpoint.htm

Study Suggests Positive Social Impact of the Garment Sector on the Lives of Bangladesh Women

While our case study 1 focused on the problem of corporate social responsibility practices in the Bangladesh garment sector, a recent study based on examining 1,395 households in 60 Bangladeshi villages in 2009 suggests that the growth of the garment sector has resulted in positive impacts on the lives of Bangladeshi women.

Specifically, the study finds that:

1) Girls exposed to the garment sector delay early marriage and childbirth at early ages (12-18). Many studies have suggested the negative welfare implications of early marriage and childbirth.

2) Girls exposed to the garment sector gain extra years of education. According to the study, on average, one additional year of working in the garment sector statistically will lead to a 0.48 years of education for girls. The authors further suggest that increased demand for skills in garment factories was one of the main driving forces behind such a positive correlation.

As argued by the authors, in developing countries such as Bangladesh, social policies such as education are often tied to trade policy and industrial policy.

However, one another interesting finding is that the average wage level of respondents working in the garment sector was almost 22% lower than those working in the non-garment sector in Bangladesh.

So, based on our case study and the above research findings, do you have any new thoughts about improving the corporate social responsibility practices in the global apparel industry? Do you think Western retailers shall stop sourcing apparel from Bangladesh because of the reported problem of factory safety and workers’ working condition? Please feel free to share your views.

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Why People Think Differently about International Trade?

This week we looked at a critical activity closely associated with the textile and apparel industry in the 21st century: International Trade.  Among the fundamental questions we examined, whether trade is beneficial or not is a one that all of us care much about but also has raised many debates. 

Just this week, the Pew Research Center released its latest survey findings about the public opinion on growing trade and business ties between countries and views about the impact of trade on jobs, wages and prices. The results show that not only Americans, but also people in other countries, including those developing ones, are divided about international trade. Anyhow, the highest level of public skepticism about trade and foreign investment is found in the United States.  

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Job and wage are among the top concerns about trade among the general public. In Italy, nearly 59 percent survey respondents believed that trade destroy jobs and 52 percent believed trade lower wages. These two figures are 50 and 45 among US respondents.

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After our discussion on various trade theories, which school of thought do you agree more: mercantilism or comparative advantage theory? Are these theories proposed hundreds years ago still working today? Do you think deepened globalization will reduce the gap or even widen the gap of people’s divided view on international trade? How do you think international trade affects your daily life and your future career opportunities? Last but not least, is trade beneficial for the US textile and apparel industry in the 21st century? Please feel free to share your views!

World Textile and Apparel Trade (Update: August 2014)

The following analysis is conducted based on the statistics released by the World Trade Organization on August 5, 2014.

1. Asia continues to dominate the world textile and apparel exports from 2012 to 2013.

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2. Despite concerns about its rising labor cost, China continues to gain more market shares in world textile and apparel exports from 2012 to 2013.

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3. World market for textiles remains relatively stable from 2000 to 2013; world market for apparel is gradually shifting and diversifying. Although Europe and North America still account for lion’s shares in world apparel imports (due to their higher GDP per capita), Asia is the fast growing market.

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4. Intra-region trade remains a distinct pattern in world T&A trade, particularly in Asia, Europe and America. However, the pattern has become substantially weakened in Europe and America from 2000 to 2013, which could be the results of increasing number of FTAs in these regions.

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5. US textile and apparel exports increased 3.3% and 4.4% respectively from 2012 to 2013. North America remains the single largest T&A export market for the United States.

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by Sheng Lu

Why does the US Textile Industry Want Yan-forward Rule of Origin (RoO) in TPP?

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My personal understanding: the US textile industry insists yarn-forward RoO in TPP is not because they expect a substantial increase of textile exports to Vietnam as the case of NAFTA and CAFTA which help capture the export markets in Mexico and Central America. But rather it is because:

1) Without yarn-forward, situation will get even worse. Particularly, a less restrictive RoO will make Vietnam’s apparel exports which contain textiles made in China, Taiwan or South Korea qualified for duty free access to the US market. Definitely this will be a more imminent and bigger threat to the US textile industry than simply facing competition from Vietnam’s apparel which contains Japanese made textiles. And still many US textile companies don’t treat the Japanese textile industry very seriously, although I think they should. Remember, Japan currently is the fourth largest textile supplier to Vietnam and the NO.1 textile supplier to China.

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2) With yarn-forward RoO in place, at least US textile companies can invest in Vietnam (remember, globalization is about movement of capital as well. Many apparel companies in Mexico and Central America actually are invested by US companies). Without yarn-forward RoO however, Vietnam can simply rely on imported textiles as the case mentioned in (1) and there will be no incentive for US textile companies to move factories to Vietnam (meaning, capital holders will lose).  

So overall yarn-forward RoO may win a few more years for the US textile industry. But in the long run, it is my view that the US textile production and its exports to the Western Hemisphere countries may still inevitably decline (especially those output to be used for apparel assembly purposes) after the implementation of TPP. In the 21st century, the nature of competition is supply chain v.s. supply chain. 

The future of the US textile industry is those high-end markets, particularly technical & industrial textiles.  

Sheng Lu 

Additional Reading: The potential impact of TPP on the US textile industry

EU Commission: Skills for Jobs in the EU Textile and Clothing Industry to Evolve

In a recent analysis report, the EU Commission foresees that skills needed by jobs in the EU textile and clothing industry will continue to evolve from 2013 to 2025. Specifically, the report argues that:

First, employment in the EU textile and clothing sector is forecast to decline by 13.4% from 2.5 million in 2013 to 2.1million in 2025. Even with shrinking employment levels, because of the need to replace nearly 1 million workers forecast to retire or leave the sector, about 611,000 job openings are anticipated from 2013 to 2025.

Second, employment in the EU textile and clothing sector is no just declined, but also evolved. From 2013 to 2025, demand for “crafted and related occupations” as well as “plant and machine operators and assemblers” will decline 34% and 13% respectively, whereas job openings for “technician and associated professional occupations” are estimated to grow at a modest rate. Among the estimated 611,000 job openings, 93% will require high or medium level qualifications.

Third, in terms of specific skills needed by the EU textile and clothing sector based on where the sector might progress towards 2020:

1) Technical production competencies will remain central to recruitment with increased focus on the demand for versatile staffs that can operate across different workstations.

2) Supply chain management, business, sales and marketing skills (including the skills in international trade) are growing in importance. For many EU textile and clothing companies, “trade has taken place of production”.

3) The EU textile and clothing industry is further expecting skills on technology, innovation and sustainability. Leading technology-led areas include mass customization, 3D body measurement, advanced CAD and eCommerce technologies, internet infrastructures for custom-tailored clothing and business-to-consumer eCommerce among retailers.

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2014 USFIA Benchmarking Study Released

UntitledKey Findings

  • China will remain the dominant supplier, though Vietnam and Asia as a whole are seen as having more growth potential.
  • Companies aren’t leaving Bangladesh, and are committed to compliance.
  • Companies continue to look for opportunities closer to home, including the United States, as they diversify their sourcing.
  • Companies are diversifying their sourcing and expect to continue to do so. However, current FTAs and preference programs remain under-utilized or don’t represent a major component of respondents’ sourcing.
  • Respondents welcome the passage or renewal of all future trade agreements that intend to remove trade barriers and facilitate international trade in the industry.

About the Benchmarking Study
The 2014 USFIA benchmarking study is conducted based on a survey of 29 executives at 29 leading U.S. fashion companies from March to April 2014. The study incorporates a balanced mix of respondents representing various business types in the U.S. fashion industry, including retailers, importers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. The survey asked respondents about the business outlook, sourcing practices, utilization of Free Trade Agreements and preference programs, and views on trade policy.

The full study can be downloaded from HERE.

EU Commission Releases Negotiating Positions for Textile and Apparel in T-TIP

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The EU Commission released its negotiating positions for the textile and apparel sector in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) on May 14, 2014.  The position paper outlines a few areas that the EU Commission says it would include in the T-TIP negotiation with the United States:

  • Labeling requirements for textile & apparel and footwear products
  • convergence and/or harmonization of approaches to guarantee product safety and consumer protection
  • standards approximation

Earlier this year, USTR also released its negotiating objectives for the T-TIP. Specifically for the textile and apparel sector, USTR will “seek to obtain fully reciprocal access to the EU market for U.S. textile and apparel products, supported by effective and efficient customs cooperation and other rules to facilitate U.S.-EU trade in textiles and apparel.” USTR holds the positive view that “eliminating the remaining duties on our exports will create new opportunities for integration into European supply chains and to sell high-quality “made-in-USA” garments to European consumers.  Enhanced U.S.-EU customs cooperation will also help ensure that non-qualifying textiles and apparel from third countries are not being imported into the United States under T-TIP.

However, T-TIP negotiation somehow is under the shadow of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another free trade agreement currently under negotiation among the United States and other eleven countries in the Asia Pacific region. As reported by the Inside US Trade, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) holds the view that TTP and T-TIP negotiation should be dealt with “sequentially”. NCTO would like to avoid a situation where the US makes a concession on textiles and apparel to the EU in T-TIP that goes beyond the US offer to Vietnam in TPP, causing Vietnam to demand the same concession in the TPP talks.

One of the most difficult issues on textiles and apparel in T-TIP will be the rule of origin, given that the U.S. and EU have taken vastly different approaches on this issue in their existing preferential trade agreements. The EU rule of origin for apparel essentially consists of two different rules — one that applies generally and one that can be used as an exception. Under the general rule, an apparel item qualifies as originating if it has undergone at least two “substantial processes” in the EU. In general, weaving the yarn into fabric and finishing the fabric are considered substantial operations. Under this scheme, EU manufacturers can use non-originating yarn to make qualifying apparel as long as that yarn is woven into fabric in the EU and also finished there. As a result, this part of the EU rule is sometimes referred to in the United States as the equivalent of a “fabric-forward” rule, since it usually requires all components of the item, starting with the fabric, to be made in the region.

The second part of the EU rule — which functions as an exception — essentially applies a more liberal rule for certain apparel and textile items. These items can qualify for tariff benefits even if only the printing or other downstream operations occur in the EU. Specifically, under this exception, a textile or apparel item that is made from non-originating fabric but for which the printing occurs in the EU can qualify for tariff benefits if the non-originating part of the item is no more than 47.5 percent of the value of the final product. EU manufacturers of printed bed sheets often take advantage of this printing exception (Inside US Trade).

Latest data from OTEXA shows that in 2013, U.S. textile and apparel imports from EU(28) totaled $4 billion, among which 52% were apparel products and 48% were textiles. Top product categories of U.S. textile and apparel imports from EU include non-woven fabrics, men&boys’ suits, dresses, floor coverings, other man-made fiber apparel, special purpose fabrics and women & girls’ coats. In comparison, U.S. textile and apparel exports to EU(28) reached $2.5 billion in 2013, among which only 29% were apparel products and 71% were textiles. Top product categories of U.S. textile and apparel exports to EU include specialty & industrial fabrics, felts & other non-woven fabrics, filament yarns, other made-up textile articles, waste & tow staples, women & girls slacks, shorts and pants as well as spun yarns & thread.

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Vietnam Announces Ambitious Plan to Develop its Textile Industry

Reported by the Sourcing Journal, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade recently approved its textile and garment sector development plan up to year 2030. Under the new plan, Vietnam sets an ambitious goal to achieve a 55% local content ratio for exported apparel by 2015 and will further increase the ratio to around 70% by 2030. As estimated, the plan will bring about an annual textile production growth rate of 12 to 13 percent between 2013 and 2030 in Vietnam.

Numerous studies have suggested that Vietnam could substantially expand its apparel exports to the world after the implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement under negotiation by twelve countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States and Vietnam. However, restrained by its stage of development, about 70—80% of Vietnam’s demand for textile inputs currently is imported (Lopez-Acevedo & Robertson, 2012). Based on 23 interviews, Goto (2007) further finds that apparel suppliers in Vietnam on average produced 67% CMT and 33% FOB based on value and 95% CMT and 5% FOB based on quantity.

But with the help of foreign investment from South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, Vietnam is quickly building up its textile manufacturing capacity (note: this is very different from the case in Mexico). According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, the number of textile firms in Vietnam had quickly increased from 408 in 2000 to 1,577 in 2008. Lopez-Acevdeo & Robertson (2012) further suggest that Vietnam’s annual production of cotton fiber has reached 10,000 tons; 50,000 tons of man-made fiber; 260,000 tons of short-staple fiber and yarn; 15,000 tons of knitted fabric; and 680 million meters of woven fabric. Around 38% of Vietnam’s textile output came from foreign invested companies in 2009.

Vietnam’s ambition to expand its domestic textile manufacturing capacity will have huge implications for the US-based textile industry. Although Vietnam seldom uses US-made textile inputs, Vietnam’s apparel exports to the United States directly compete with those exported from Mexico and countries in the Caribbean Basin regions which is the largest export market for U.S. made textiles (Lu & Dickerson, 2012).  An expanded local textile manufacturing capacity will not only reduce Vietnam’s demand for imported textile inputs, but also will help improve the price competitiveness of Vietnam’s apparel exports in the global marketplace. If China increasingly moves its textile factories to Vietnam (unless the conflict between Vietnam and China over the South China Sea complicates the situation), Vietnam may further becomes a net textile exporter in the long run.

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OECD Service Trade Restrictiveness Index Shows Trade Obstacles in Emerging Economies Remain High

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According to the latest Service trade Restrictiveness Index (STRIs) released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), service trade barriers in many emerging economies remain much higher than their developed trading partners.

Specifically for the distribution service sector, which covers general wholesale and retail sales of consumer goods, the STRIs suggests the highest trade barriers are in place in Indonesia, China and India whereas Spain, Germany and Czech Republic are among the most open to foreign companies (see the figure above).  Because trade in distribution services has mainly taken place through commercial presence, and the STRI results highlight the importance of impediments on foreign ownership.

The STRIs indices take the value from 0 to 1, where 0 is completely open and 1 is completely closed. The indices are calculated based on the following five factors:

  • Restrictions on foreign ownership and other market entry conditions (30%)
  • Restrictions on the movement of people (10%)
  • Other discriminatory measures and international standards (17%)
  • Barriers to competition and public ownership (22%)
  • Regulatory transparency and administrative requirements (21%) 

Currently, the STRIs include 40 countries (34 OECD members as well as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa) across 18 service sectors.

 

Bangladesh Apparel Industry: An Update

Note: The following update can be used as additional reference material for our case study 1 on the Bangladesh fire accident.

The export-oriented apparel sector has been the main source of growth in exports and formal employment for the past three decades in Bangladesh. The industry directly employs 3.1 million people, comprising 40 percent of manufacturing employment; indirectly more than 10 million people are dependent on the apparel sector.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO, 2013), in 2012, Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the world reached $19.9 billion (4.7%), among which $10.6 billion (or 53.3%) went to the European Union (27) and $4.6 billion (or 22.4%) went to the United States. Cotton trousers, cotton shirts, cotton sweaters and cotton T-shirt [HS 620342, HS620462, HS620520, HS611010 and HS610910]account for around 75% of Bangladesh’s total apparel exports in 2009 (World Bank, 2012).

The unit prices of Bangladesh’s main apparel exports are much lower than the world average and even lower than the unit values of apparel exports from China, India and Sri Lanka. From 2004 to 2007, the average price of Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the world fell from $2.60 to $2.31 per unit, representing a decline of 11 percent over three years. More specifically, average unit prices for woven  apparel fell from $3.26 to $2.92 (10% drop in price) and for knit apparel from $1.95 to $1.90 (3% drop in price) over the same period.

Bangladesh’s Local sources are able to meet about 80 percent of the domestic apparel industry’s demand for apparel accessories such as thread, buttons, labels, bags, tapes, shirt board, and cartons. But Bangladesh’s apparel sector relies on imported fabric and yarn inputs because the local textile industry is unable to supply its requirement in terms of quality, quantity, and variety.

Bangladesh’s main competitive advantage is low labor costs, one of the lowest among main apparel exporter countries in the world. Average apparel labor costs per hour in 2008 were $0.22; in comparison, rates in India were more than twice as high and four times higher in China. However, low wages are accompanied by relatively low levels of labor productivity. Average annual value addition per worker in Bangladesh was estimated at $2,500 compared to nearly $7,000 for a group of similar Chinese factories in 2005, according to a World Bank study.

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Reference: Sewing Success? Employment, Wages and Poverty following the End of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (World Bank, 2012). International Trade Statistics (World Trade Organization, 2013).

Trade with EU and Japan is good for the US and Trade with China is bad?

Yesterday in class, we’ve discussed how differently people see the impact of international trade. Here is one more example showing the controversy of the topic: according to a survey conducted by PewResearch in late 2010, 58% of sampled Americans said more trade with European nations would be good for the United States, 60% said increased trade with Japan would be good for the U.S. but only 45% favored increased trade with China. However, statistical data shows that US exports to China outpaced nearly all of the top ten export markets (including Japan and EU) from 2003 to 2012(source: USCBC).  

Why would the general public favor a particular trading partner but disfavor another? Should they? By which standard the general public may assume more trade with a particular trading partner would be good or bad for the United States? In your view, is trade beneficial for the US overall? Can we use any trade theories learnt from the class to explain the above phenomenon? Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Apparel Issues to Watch in 2014

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In the year ahead, the following issues are suggested to watch for the apparel industry according to the latest just style management briefing:

Responsible sourcing: a variety of different themes inclusive of sustainability, compliance, chemical safety and product safety. In the past, the apparel industry has been very reactive in these areas, and efforts have accelerated to move to a more proactive model in 2014.

Demand for greater supply chain visibility: a higher level focus and a lot more time will be required to look at the supply chains from end to end, especially for tier 2 and 3 component suppliers. Apparel industry needs to be focused on preparing to be more transparent on what goes into making its products and the carbon and water footprint it leaves behind. There will also be a stronger emphasis on quality, and more intelligence and agility in the supply chain, including how to achieve global flexibility in supply to maximize advantages and benefits offered by different regions.

Adjust to the industry “new normal”: speed, efficiency and cost management. ‘Quick response’ or ‘fast fashion’ is no longer a catch phrase, it’s a business reality. Speed is king. Retailers have learned to manage with smaller inventories and to quickly react to consumer needs. Additionally, there are no more low cost countries (with capability and capacity) to tap into, which requires more efficient cost control through supply chain design and management.

Internet and omni-channel retailing. The internet continues to upend the apparel industry. Brick and mortar companies are still struggling to figure out how to harness the power of the internet – and struggling to figure out how big of a threat pure-play internet companies are. Meanwhile, the proliferation of internet-only companies continues, increasing the competitive pressure on everyone (including the older internet-only companies!). All of this will end up resulting in a much stronger industry overall – but in the meantime there will be a lot of hand-wringing and heartache.

Economic outlook. Overall, 2014 will be a year better off than 2013. The US economy continues to improve, the Eurozone recession has stabilised and there is the huge opportunity Asia offers.

Country risk. Whatever happens in the real economy, political tensions throughout developing countries (except possibly China and Vietnam) are growing. They are about more than working conditions in garment factories – and we cannot expect the garment industry to remain immune from them.

International market expansion. Global vertical retailers and brands need to balance the efficiency of global assortments with being able to cater to a broad range of consumer purchasing preferences across cultural groups. Winners manage to preserve their brand identity while offering attractive choices to this diverse customer group.

Trade policy and trade politics. 2014 is an election year for US Congress. It will only be tougher to find bipartisan consensus. Things to watch include whether the Obama Administration is going to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during 2014, whether the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) can get passed as well as the renewal of the Generalized system of Preferences (GSP) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

China’s role in the global apparel supply chain. China’s productivity miracle has been the single major influence on global sourcing over the past five years. While this cannot go on forever it is hard to see a significant change in its share in 2014. China’s dominance of upstream textile production (spinning, weaving and knitting) is under greater threat. Its main operators are making substantial overseas investment, and while the timing of major upstream projects means this will have little impact on fabric and yarn manufacture in 2014, the subject will preoccupy observers. Onshore garment development in Japan, Germany, the UK and US will continue to create much publicity, but limited amounts of garments. Nearshoring continued to lose market share in the EU and US during 2013, though many buyers express growing interest, and there are signs of growth in some categories. It will be surprising if it shows any significant increase in 2014.

When Apparel “Made in China” Become More Expensive, Will U.S. Consumers Have to Pay More?

(This study was presented at the 2013 International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference)

By

Sheng Lu (University of Rhode Island) and Jessica Ridgeway (University of Missouri)

China’s soaring labor cost in recent years has triggered heated discussions on the future of “made in China” and its implication for U.S. consumers who rely heavily on “made in China” products (Rein, 2012). This is particularly the case in the U.S. apparel retail market, where over 98% of consumptions are supplied by imports and nearly 40% of them come from China in value (AAFA, 2012). Although numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate the relationship between imports and the U.S. domestic apparel production or employment (Martin, 2007), the direct linkage between the price of imports and the U.S. apparel retail price has seldom been explored. Because such a price linkage is the key to understand the implication of a more expensive “Made in China” for U.S. consumers, this study tries to fulfill the research gap and specifically investigate to which extent the U.S. apparel retail price is influenced by the price of U.S. apparel imports from China.

Through investigating the impact of the average unit price of U.S. apparel imports from China, the average unit price of U.S. apparel imports from sources other than China and the annual U.S. apparel retail sales on the annual U.S. consumer price index from 2001 to 2011 based on a revised Armington model, this study finds that:

First, for menswear, more expensive “made in China” will result in a higher retail price in the U.S. market. Specifically, the U.S. retail price is suggested to change by 0.137% in the same direction given a 1% change of the price of U.S. imports from China. Second, for womenswear, there is no evidence showing that the price of U.S. imports from China has statistically significant impact on the U.S. retail price Third, the U.S. apparel imports from China and from rest of the world are suggested to constitute higher degree of price elasticity of substitution for womenswear than for menswear.

Findings of this study contribute to the understanding of the direct price linkage between the U.S. apparel import market and the U.S. apparel retail market and have several important implications:

First, the results imply that when “made in China” becomes more expensive, U.S. consumers may not have to pay more, largely because of increased substitution supply from other apparel exporters. Second, the results suggest that the U.S. apparel market is highly competitive and suppliers may not own much market power in price determination despite their large market shares.Third, the results imply that although “made in China” may lose market share in the U.S. market when it becomes more expensive, the magnitude could vary by product categories.

References:

  1. American Apparel and Footwear Association, AAFA (2012).Apparelstats 2012. Retrieved from https://www.wewear.org/industry-resources/publications-and-statistics/
  2. Armington, P.S. (1969). A theory of demand for products distinguished by place of production. International Monetary Fund Staff Papers,16(1), 159-178.
  3. Martin, M. (2007). U.S. clothing and textile trade with China and the world: Trends since the end of quotas. Congressional Research Services, RL 34106, Washington, D.C..
  4. Office of Textiles and Apparel, OTEXA (2013). U.S. imports and exports of textiles and apparel. Retrieved from http://www.otexa.ita.doc.gov/msrpoint.htm
  5. Rodrigo, P. (2012). Re-shoring US apparel making tough but not impossible. Just Style. Retrieve from http://www.just-style.com/analysis/re-shoring-us-apparel-making-tough-but-not-impossible_id115455.aspx
  6. Rein, S. (2012). The end of cheap China: Economic and cultural trends that will disrupt the world: Wiley.
  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS. (2013). Consumer Price Index.  Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cpi/
  8. U.S. Census Bureau, Census. (2013). Monthly and annual retail trade. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/retail/

OTEXA Released the 2013 Going Global Report

 

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The Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce recently released the 2013 version of the Going Global Report, which identifies both the largest and the fastest growing export markets for U.S.-made textiles and apparel (T&A) products from 2006 to 2012. Among the 15 largest export markets, six are based in America, five are located in Asia and the rest are from Europe.  

What should be particularly noted is that Vietnam is identified as the top fastest growing export market for U.S. made textiles by the report. In 2012, the U.S. textile exports to Vietnam increased 54.3% from 2011, totaling $66.2 million. However, according to the statistics from the U.N. Comtrade, by 2011,  only 0.6% of Vietnam’s textile imports came from the United States, whereas the leading textile suppliers to Vietnam, including China, Japan and South Korea, are all based in Asia. This raises the question as to whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), if concluded, is able to “break” the current regional production & trade pattern in Asia and positively promote the vertical collaboration between Vietnam and the United States for T&A production and trade.

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The on-going restructuring of the U.S. textile and apparel industry in response to the changing nature of today’s global economy has resulted in a significant shift in the U.S. T&A trade policy in the past few years, moving away from restricting imports to promoting exports in the global marketplace. As the report puts it:

“The growth of the global economy provides U.S. firms with greater opportunities to seek out new markets and customers and to expand their businesses. Moreover, with increased competition from overseas, companies are looking to diversify their client base and find new ways to grow. The supply chain for textiles and apparel has become increasingly global, to include North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Asia Pacific region. Customers, suppliers, manufacturers, and assemblers are located throughout the world, and represent new potential partners for U.S. firms looking to expand abroad. “

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

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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.)

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

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

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. “

 

China and the US Economy: Advancing a Winning Trade Agenda

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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.?

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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

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?”