While trade policy certainly impacts sourcing strategy, it often seems secondary to actual industry experience and practice–and which country’s production is most reliable for serving a brand’s needs.
Amid the turmoil over U.S.-China trade relations, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said, “This entire process creates uncertainty and makes it difficult for retail companies that must rely on complicated global supply chains.”
In the lead up to the latest tariff threats, importers seemed to be relying on the tried and true. China’s market share of apparel and textile imports to the U.S. increased to 36.63% in February from 36.44% the previous month. China’s industry shipments to the U.S. increased 4.18% in February to reach $39.27 billion worth of goods.
Vietnam, the No. 2 supplier of apparel and textiles to the U.S., also grew its market share to 11.53% from 11.5% month-to-month, despite some predictions that when the U.S. pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. would fall off. Vietnam’s industry imports to the U.S., primarily apparel, increased 9.01% in February to $12.36 billion.
Looking further at Top 10 suppliers, India’s market share shrunk a bit in the month to 6.92% from 6.96%, as imports increased 3.12% to $7.42 billion. The U.S. is challenging India’s export regime as including subsidies not allowed under World Trade Organization rules. India’s had slashed those “draw back duties” in recent months, possibly to be more in line with WTO rules, and experts estimated that could have increased FOB costs.
Bangladesh’s imports to the U.S. struggled in the month, with its market share declining to 4.93% to from 4.97% and the value of its shipments falling 2.84% to $5.29 billion.
Along other Asian suppliers, Indonesia’s market share fell to 4.44% from 4.47% and its imports to the U.S. dropped 1.72% to $4.76 billion. Pakistan saw its market share dip to 2.59% from 2.61% in the month and its shipments rise 1.67% to $2.78 billion, while Cambodia’s market share ticked up to 2.15% from 2.14% and its shipments rise 6.79% to $2.3 billion.
Among the Top 10 suppliers from the Americas, Mexico’s market share dipped to 4.4% from 4.53% in February as its imports increased 7.93% to $4.83 billion, while Honduras’ market share fell to 2.34% from 2.36% on a 2.21% decline in imports to $2.5 billion, and El Salvador’s market share slipped to 1.83% from 1.84% in the month.
Elsewhere among secondary suppliers, winners included Turkey, which saw its imports to the U.S. climb 16.53% to $1.55 billion worth of goods; Italy, which posted a, 8.78% increase in shipments to $1.8 billion, and Egypt, shipping 7.27% more goods worth $905.99 million.
Those second tier suppliers that were losers in the month were South Korea, with imports falling 3.15% to $866.1 million; Thailand, which imports falling 2.26% to $1 billion, and Guatemala, with shipments declining 2 percent to $1.36 billion.
There is concern among the hundreds of millions of dollars in tariff threats flying across the Pacific between the U.S. and China, that the ongoing efforts to re-establish U.S. manufacturing would be hurt.
Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Textile Association, said, “We are concerned that the list includes tariffs on machinery used in our domestic manufacturing process. This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA.”
With the call for a more balanced trade between the U.S. and the world seemingly at the heart of tariff threats, U.S. exports of apparel and textiles rose 3.47% in February to $22.83 million. The bulk of these exports went to countries in the Americas that are either part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Mexico is the top destination of these shipments, with an increase of 3.2% to $6.07 million worth of goods, and Canada is second, with a gain of 3.89% to $5.39 million in shipments. The U.S., Canada and Mexico are currently renegotiating NAFTA.
The CAFTA countries among the top suppliers all increased their exports coming in from the U.S. in the month. Honduras brought in 3.78%, or $1.5 million more goods, the Dominican Republic 5.44% or $561,213 worth of merchandise or materials, El Salvador 25.42% to $468,607 in goods and Nicaragua 19.67%, or $348,919 in shipments.