Outsoucing and “Made in USA” An Ongoing Debate

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The following questions are proposed by students enrolled in FASH455 Spring 2016. Please feel free to leave your comment and engage in our online discussion.

L.L Bean: A Business Model for “Made in USA”?

L.L. Bean has been a strong business for hundreds of years, yet recently their sales of Bean Boots have skyrocketed because they are now seen as trendy. Even though L.L. Bean’s orders and demand has gone up, they still somehow manage to have their products being handmade, sourced locally, and all in the US.

#1: Can L.L. Bean become a model for other businesses looking to manufacture in the US? How has L.L. Bean managed to keep this business model up for so many years and why have they not changed or decided to outsource? 

#2: Why doesn’t L.L Bean look into other American cities for manufacturing options so they do not lose productivity by being exclusively made in Maine?

#3: Do you think it would be beneficial for L.L. Bean to outsource to foreign companies for their manufacturing? Would there still be as high of a demand if these boots were manufactured abroad?

Outsourcing v.s. “Made in USA”

#4: It is said that one reason why American brands choose to offshore their manufacturing is because there isn’t as many cutting edge machines readily available in the States as in other countries. Is it realistic for the American manufacturing market to invest in these machines for domestic manufacturing? If so, how can America make sure to stay relevant with these technologies and not fall behind as we have currently?

#5: One aspect commonly mentioned throughout these readings was the lack of skilled labor in the US in the fashion industry. Is the decrease in skilled areas, such as shoemaking and needle trade, due to the increase in skilled labor overseas? Are these professions considered outdated for young Americans to be learning? How can we jumpstart a desire for young people to take up these skills once again?

#6: One major problem the US has been facing regarding keeping production domestic has been the lack of skilled workers to work in factories. Is the cost of providing training to interested workers too high? Should it be required that all fashion majors should take a sewing class? Where does the decision to train apparel workers begin?

#7: Many American manufacturers refrain from manufacturing in the United States because it is too expensive because more people are formally educated and are not willing to work for a low wage, but only 15% of respondents actually are working towards that. Is it realistic to reach out to homeless communities looking to get back onto their feet to see if they would work in factories? Would this help promote American manufacturing and decrease importing?

#8: In today’s fast paced fashion world, trends come and go rather quickly. The striking disadvantage of manufacturing overseas is the slow turnaround time which could be up to 3-5 months. By manufacturing domestically, turnaround can be as quick as 2 weeks. Why do the majority of fashion companies still choose to manufacture overseas when there is a possibility the trend could be over by time they reach store shelves (Thus, a lack in profit)? When will trend pressures become too much for overseas production?

#9: Is it even worth it to bring manufacturing back to America if it is not benefitting the workers and creating jobs? If manufacturing in the US is simply machine based, what is the point of doing so when it could be cheaper elsewhere and benefit countries that need the jobs?

[Discussion is closed for this post].

Textile and Apparel Sector in the 2016 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda

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In the recently released 2016 President’s Trade Agenda, the textile and apparel (T&A) sector was mentioned four times (up from only once in 2015*):

1.Trade enforcement

“THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION has a record of trade enforcement victories that have helped to level the playing field for American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers. In 2016, we will continue to aggressively pursue a robust trade enforcement agenda, including by using new and stronger tools under the bipartisan Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 to hold our trading partners accountable.

Ongoing disputes include challenges to:

  • China’s far-reaching export subsidy program extending across sectors and dozens of sub-sectors, including textiles, industrial and agricultural products.”

2.Trade preference programs

“Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE) pro­gram, which supports nearly $900 million in garment imports from Haiti, is an essen­tial support for Haiti’s long-term economic growth and industrial development. HOPE supports thousands of jobs in Haiti’s textile and gar­ment sectors, while providing important pro­tections to workers. Early extension of this program will provide the necessary stability and continuity for companies to continue in­vesting in Haiti’s future.”

3.Benefits of trade to the American people

“More recent trends are similar, with families steadily gaining purchasing power as the price of traded goods, such as smart phones, apparel, and toys, falls. While all households benefit, the gains from trade have predominantly benefited lower-income Americans, who spend a greater portion of their incomes on highly-traded staples like food, shoes, and clothing.”

4.Trade and labor

Our engagement has produced an Imple­mentation Plan Related to Working and Liv­ing Conditions of Workers that is helping to address concerns about workers’ rights and working conditions in Jordan’s garment sec­tor, particularly with respect to foreign work­ers. Jordan has issued new standards for dormitory inspections, submitted new labor legislation to its parliament and hired new labor inspectors. USTR and Department of Labor continue to work with Jordan on the issues under the Plan.

Overall, it seems:1) Reflecting the global nature of the sector, T&A is a topic that involves multiple trading parties for the United States; 2) Economic development and foreign aid are important elements in the U.S. trade policy for T&A. 3) Social responsibility and labor practices in the T&A sector remain a grave concern and need further improvement through international collaborations. 4) The T&A sector is involved in some topics with divisive public opinions, such as the impact of imports.

* Textile and apparel mentioned in the 2015 U.S. Trade Policy Agenda:

Our engagement has produced an Implementation Plan Related to Working and Living Conditions of Workers that is helping to address concerns about workers’ rights and working conditions in Jordan’s garment sector, particularly with respect to foreign workers. Jordan has issued new standards for dormitory inspections, submitted new labor legislation to its parliament and hired new labor inspectors.

[Discussion is closed for this post]

State of China’s Textile and Apparel (T&A) Industry (Updated in January 2016)

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How to deal with China as a sourcing destination remains a tough and controversial issue facing U.S. apparel retailers and fashion brands in 2016. Although companies are of grave concerns about China’s continuous rising production cost (especially labor cost), few other lower-wage countries can beat China in terms of industry integration, supply chain efficiency, and reliability.This blog post intends to add to the discussion by taking a look at the supply side, i.e. what is happening in the China textile and apparel (T&A) industry.

First, China’s production capacity remains unparalleled in the world. In 2014, the latest statistics available, textile fiber production in China exceeded 50 million tons, accounting for 54.36 percent of world share. By 2013, as much as 64.2 percent of the world’s chemical fibers, 64.1 percent of synthetic fibers and 26.2 percent of cotton were produced in China (see the table blew). On the other hand, apparel production in China reached 29.9 billion units in 2014, up 10.4 percent from 2013. Given China’s vast production capacity, very likely it will remain the top apparel sourcing destination for most EU and US fashion apparel companies for many years to come. For example, Vietnam’s apparel production in 2015 totaled 2.85 billion units, which was only around 10 percentage of China’s production scale in 2014.

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Second, China’s T&A industry is growing slower. Specifically, output of China’s T&A industry (measured by value added) grew only 7.0 percent between 2013-2014, a significant drop from 10.3 percent between 2009-2010. Other major economic indicators in the industry, from sales revenue, net profit to investment, followed a similar pattern (see the figure below). Additionally, for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, China’s T&A exports suffered a 3.9 percent decline in 2015 (-1.3% for textiles and -5.4% for apparel). Given the downward pressure on China’s economy and uncertainties in the world marketplace, such a slow-growth pattern is likely to continue in the years ahead.

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investment

Third, China’s T&A industry is undergoing important structural adjustment. Within the total industry output, the ratio of apparel, home textiles and industrial textiles has turned from 51:29:20 in 2010 to 46.8: 28.6: 24.6 in 2014, reflecting China’s efforts to move towards making more value-added and technology-intensive textile products. This ratio is expected to become 40:27:33 by the end of 2020 (i.e. the end of China’s 13th five-year plan). In order to overcome the pressure of rising labor and production cost, China’s T&A manufacturing base is gradually moving from the east coast to the western and central part of the country (accounting for 22.5 percent of China’s T&A production in 2014, up from 16.8 percent in 2010; this share may further increase to 28 percent by 2020). Additionally, T&A companies in China are encouraged to increase spending on research and development (R&D), which on average had accounted for 0.47 percent of T&A companies’ sales revenue in 2013, up from 0.43 percent in 2011.

Fourth, T&A companies in China are actively seeking business opportunities in the domestic retail market. Apparel retail sales in China reached 893.6 billion yuan in 2014 (around $137.5 billion), among which 30.77 percent were sold online (up from 14.54 percent in 2011). Apparel retail price on average rose 2.6 percent between 2013-2014, compared with 2.0 percent increase of China’s overall CPI over that period. However, it shall be noted that apparel retail sales in China’s tier 1 and tier 2 cities achieved almost zero growth in 2014, partially reflecting the negative impact of retail price increase on consumers’ demand. In comparison, apparel retail sales in China’s tier 3 & 4 cities as well as rural areas remain robust and strong. Additionally, financial performance of T&A companies in China is becoming more polarized. Companies that follow the traditional business model of manufacturing and exporting are facing their most difficult time since the 2008 financial crisis. However, there are also many success stories of apparel companies that focus on function upgrading, i.e. moving from simply “manufacturing” products to “serving” the market needs.

Sheng Lu

Recommended reading: China’s 13th five-year plan for its textile and apparel industry: Key numbers

Top 10 Most Read FASH455 Blog Posts in 2015

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1. Potential Impact of TPP on the Textile and Apparel Sector: A Summary of Recent Studies

2. 2014 World Textile Industry Labor Cost Comparison

3. Global Trade of Used Clothing (Updated: October 2015)

4. Market Size of the Global Textile and Apparel Industry: 2014 to 2018

5. When Will TPP Take Effect? Let’s look at the History

6. China to Become the World’s Largest Apparel Market in 2019

7. Are US Textile and Apparel Imports Using Free Trade Agreements?

8. 2015 US Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study Released

9. Exclusive Interview with Erin Ennis, Vice President, US-China Business Council

10. US Tariff Phaseout Schedule for Textile and Apparel in TPP by OTEXA Code

Textile and Apparel (T&A)-Specific Rules of Origin in TPP—Apparel Products

Textile and apparel (T&A)-specific rules of origin (RoO) for most apparel articles under TPP are known as the nickname “yarn forward”. “Yarn-forward “means preferential treatment under TPP will be allowed if the component determining classification meet BOTH the following two criteria:

  • knit or woven in TPP countries FROM yarn spun or extruded in TPP countries;
  • apparel is cut or knit to shape or both + sewn or otherwise assembled in TPP countries

In other words, “yarn forward” RoO not only requires the activity of apparel manufacturing must happen in one or more TPP countries, but also requires certain textile material used to make the apparel products must come from the TPP region.

The following is an example of how TPP describes “yarn-forward” rules of origin:

“A good is an originating good if it is produced entirely in one or more TPP countries by one or more producers using non-originating materials and each of the non-originating materials used in the production of the good satisfies any production process requirement, any applicable change in tariff classification requirement or any other requirement specified.”

yarn forward

The followings are details of T&A-specific RoO for apparel products in TPP compiled based on released TPP text. “Regular yarn-forward” means all textile material listed in the table must be TPP originating. Overall, TPP allows much fewer exceptions to “yarn-forward” rules than most existing free trade agreements in the United States (such as NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, and Columbia Free Trade Agreement).

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U.S. Department of Commerce Releases Factsheet on TPP and the U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry

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According to the factsheet released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will create exciting new export opportunities for the U.S. textile and apparel (T&A) industry. The report highlights Vietnam and Japan as two promising markets in TPP for certain T&A products “Made in USA”, including:

Vietnam:

  • Cotton fiber, yarn, and Cotton woven Fabric (U.S. exported $394 million in 2014 with 16% market share only after China; tariff will be cut from 12% to zero on day one)
  • Non-woven fabrics (U.S. exported $23million in 2014, up 951% from 2009; tariff will be cut from 12% to zero on day one)

Japan

  • Synthetic fiber, yarn, and fabric (U.S. exported $61 million in 2014, up 61% from 2009; tariff will be cut from 2.7%-10% to zero on day one)
  • Industrial and advanced textile fabrics (U.S. exported $91 million in 2014, the fourth largest supplier after China, Taiwan, South Korea; tariff will be cut from 8.2% to zero on day one)
  • Men’s and boy’s apparel (U.S. exported $32.6milion in 2014, up 30.9% from 2009; tariff will be cut from 9.8% to zero on day one)

The factsheet also argues that TPP is a “balanced” deal for the U.S. T&A industry: long U.S. tariff phaseout schedule, strict “yarn-forward” rules of origin and textile safeguard mechanism in TPP will serve the interests of those stakeholders that seek protection of U.S. domestic T&A manufacturing, whereas duty savings from import tariff cut and the short supply list will create greater market access opportunities for U.S. fashion brands and retailers.

According to the report, the United States is the fourth largest textile exporter in the world. 54% of total U.S. T&A exports went to TPP markets in 2014. The United States is also the single largest importer of T&A in the world. 372,300 T&A manufacturing jobs remained in the United States in 2014.

US Tariff Phaseout Schedule for Textile and Apparel in TPP by OTEXA Code

[This post is updated on July 1, 2016]

Please also read:TPP tariff phase-out can steer Vietnam sourcing plans

The United States includes as many as 38 different types of phaseout schedule in TPP and 8 of them apply to the textile and apparel (T&A) sector.

phaseout category

In general, T&A products with lower base tariff rate seem to be given more generous phaseout treatment than T&A that are subject to higher base tariff rate. For example, although T&A products under category EIF can immediately enjoy duty-free treatment once TPP takes into force, their base tariff rate is also the lowest (7.9% on average). In comparison, whereas T&A products under category US6, US7, US8 and US9 are subject to the highest base tariff rate, they are given the least generous tariff cut (i.e. 35%) once TPP takes into effect. This will makes average tariff rate applied to these products remain the highest almost throughout the whole phaseout period. It should be noted that even though US11 apparently seems to be the most restrictive phaseout category (i.e. 50% cut on day 1 and the resulting rate will remain unchanged until the end of year 12), its average tariff rate actually will be lower than phaseout category US6, US7, US8 and US9.

tariff

In the following table, the U.S. phaseout schedule for T&A in the released TPP text based on the 8-digit Harmonized System (HS) code is matched with the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) product category. Results show that products equivalent to around 37.5% of the value of U.S. textile and apparel imports from Vietnam in 2015 will enjoy immediate duty-free treatment once TPP takes into force (i.e. EIF), approximately 4% will be subject to medium-level protection (i.e. EIF+B5) and 58.6% are under high (i.e. EIF+ any of the followings: US6, US7, US8, US9, US10, US11) or very high level of protection (i.e. any of the followings: US6, US7, US8, US9, US10, US11).

phaseout by OTEXA code

phaseout by trade data

Note: “Level of protection” in the above table is defined as the following: 1) Low level of protection: EIF only; 2) Medium level of protection: EIF+B5; 3) High level of protection: EIF+any of the followings: US6, US7, US8, US9, US10, US11; 4) Very high level of protection: any of the followings: US6, US7, US8, US9, US10, US11 only.

Sheng Lu