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

Think Big about International Trade

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I hope you all enjoy the guest lecture given by Ambassador Friedrich Löhr on his global travel stories as a career diplomat over the past 37 years. Actually, topic of our class is closely connected with “international relations”. As observed by Michael Forman, US Trade Representative, “trade is what most of international relations are about and trade policy is national security policy”; “leaders have come to see the economic clout that trade produces as more than merely a purse for military prowess; they now understand prosperity to be a principal means by which countries measure and exercise power”.

Several readings/case studies/discussions in our class have touched the strategic aspects of international trade in the 21st century. For example, I hope at this point you not only understand the technical aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) such as “yarn-forward” and “short supply list”, but also can see TPP as a strategic movement for the US to become more deeply embedded in the Asia-Pacific region. Similarly, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a free trade agreement, but a successful conclusion of T-TIP will also send “an unmistakable signal to the world about the strength of the US-EU bond—a timely reminder as the crisis in Ukraine has triggered deep unease across the continent.”

The strategic aspects of international trade can also be understood from the development perspective. There is a direct correlation between integration into the multilateral trading system and economic growth and between growth and poverty reduction. What then UN Secretary Kofi Annan said remains very true “The main losers in today’s very unequal world are not those who are too much exposed to globalization. They are those who have been left out”. No example can be more convincing than the case of textile and apparel (T&A) to illustrate this point. In many low-income countries in the world, T&A accounts for two-thirds of local employment and over 60 percentage of total merchandise exports. This is why trade preference programs such as AGOA, GSP and HOPE play a critical roles in providing greater market access opportunities to those most vulnerable countries.

To understand the strategic aspects of trade, you may further recall our case study 2 and the discussions on the necessity of maintaining a sound operation of the GATT system in the setting of 1970s. Without a rule-based multilateral trading system, international trade simply couldn’t happen. Yet the current multilateral trading system established shortly after World War II needs an update to better reflect the changing nature of world economy and format of trade. This is why so much attention has been given to mega-trade agreements such as TPP and TTIP. These free trade agreements will have a huge impact shaping the future rules of the game, no matter in terms of adding new agendas such as state-owned enterprises, digital trade and facilitating supply chain, or more effectively establishing a level playing field for issues such as environmental and labor standards.

So think strategically about international trade and think big about the impact of our T&A industry in the 21st century global economy.

Levi Strauss to Provide Financial Incentives to Encourage Better Practices in Social Compliance

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Levi Strauss, a global manufacturer of brand-name clothing, announced today that it plans to provide financial incentives for garment suppliers in developing countries to upgrade environmental, health, safety and labor standards. Specifically, if a vendor scores higher on  Levi Strauss’s Terms of Engagement (TOE) assessment, which measures labor, health and safety, and environmental performances, it will receive lower cost rates on working-capital financing from the International Finance Corporation (member of the World Bank) Global Trade Supplier Finance program (GTSF). Established in 2010, GTSF is a $500 million multicurrency investment and advisory program that provides short-term finance to emerging-market suppliers and small and midsized exporters. Lower financing cost will help a garment manufacturer reduce its operation cost and potentially result in increased profits.

As we learned in TMD433, corporate social responsibility is a critical and long-time issue facing the global textile and apparel industry. Despite many great efforts, the phenomenon of “race to the bottom” still widely exists because of the intensive competition among suppliers. Levi Strauss is the first major international buyer that partners with a financial institution to offer its suppliers a direct financial incentive to improve social compliance. Levi’s program also reminds us that to improve the corporate social responsibility practices in the fashion apparel industry requires joint efforts and creativity among all stakeholders.

Discussion: What do you think of Levi’s program? Will it work well? Can it become a “model” and gradually involve more retailers or fashion brands? Any challenges will the program face in its implementation? Feel free to share your thoughts. Related reading: Levi’s Sourcing VP Talks Supply Chain Strategies (from Sourcing journal Online, May 2014)

[Discussion for this post is closed, please leave no more comment.]

Japan’s Textile Exports to Vietnam Keep Growing Fast

According to a recent report released by the Textile Outlook International, Japan’s textile and apparel (T&A) exports increased by 9.6% to a five-year high in 2013 (¥763,307 million or $8,571 million USD), added by a sharp depreciation in the value of the yen (Note: Yen or “¥” is Japan’s currency) against US dollar. Specifically, Japan’s textile exports increased by 9.8%, from ¥729,761 million in 2012 to ¥801,450 million in 2013. Japan’s apparel exports rose by 3.7%, from ¥33,546 million in 2012 to ¥34,792 million in 2013. Textiles account for a lion’s share of Japan’s total T&A exports– 95.8% in 2013 and 95.6% in 2012 in terms of value.

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Statistics also show that Vietnam not only is Japan’s second largest T&A export market, but also is one of the fastest growing export markets for Japan. In 2013, 9.1% of Japan’s T&A exports went to Vietnam (mostly were textiles), increased from 8.5% in 2012. In terms of absolute value, Japans’ T&A exports to Vietnam has also kept growing fast in recent years: 17.1% increase in 2013, 9.7% in 2012 and 27.3% in 2011, much higher than the growth rate of Japan’s overall T&A exports over the same period. Additionally, about 26% of Japan’s textile exports to Vietnam in 2013 were man-made fiber fabrics (SITC 653), followed by special yarns and fabrics (SITC 657) which accounted for 21% in terms of value. This product structure well matches with Japan’s overall textile exports to the world.

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On the other hand, Japans’ T&A exports to the US also grew by 8.1% in 2013, following a 3.2% rise in 2012. Fastest growing category of Japan’s T&A exports to the US in 2013 include blue denim fabric, non-textured filament yarn, wool knitted shirts and blouses and miscellaneous manufactured products made from man-made fibers.

However, the solid performance of Japan’s T&A exports in 2013 “failed to reinvigorate domestic production”. According to the report, Japan’s total T&A exports declined by 2.0% from 2012 to 2013, following a 2.3% fall a year earlier. However, production of miscellaneous textile products in Japan went up 0.6% in 2013.

Questions for discussion:

  • Will Japan further strengthen its ties with Vietnam in T&A production and trade because of TPP?
  • Should the US textile industry care about Japan in the TPP?

Welcome for any comments and suggestions.

Related reading
Lu, S. (2014). Does Japan’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership an opportunity or a threat to the U.S. textile industry: A quantitative analysis. Journal of the Textile Institute. (ahead of print version) 

Lectra Report: The Need for Transformation-An Analysis of the Fashion and Apparel Industry’s Evolution

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As the saying goes, change is the only constant in the fashion apparel industry. According to a newly released market report by Lectra*, “the pace of fashion has never been faster and neither has the pace of change”.

Lectra’s report highlights a few factors driving the changes in the fashion apparel industry:

1. Consumers

Consumers has much more control than in the past, implying the fashion industry can no longer define what to make and sell without taking consumers’ inputs into consideration. Some companies have alter their business models to be completely demand-driven, i.e. allowing integrating all their resources to meet the customized needs of all consumers.

Social and economic changes like internet access and growing prosperity, have also spurred the growth of new fashion markets in emerging countries that had typically been only supplier region, creating new opportunities for western fashion brands and retailers to expand business.

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2. Globalization

Historically, local brands dominate local market. However, because of the strategies of geographic expansion and international growth of many fashion brands, in more and more markets, local brands have to face competition from foreign brands. (for example: the Australian fashion industry is worried about the competition from H&M).

But globalization does not reduce diversity and localized consumer preferences. On the contrary, increased internationalization means that populations are more heterogeneous than in the past and retailers have to bring a localized response to individual markets.

3. Technology

New social media and mobile technologies have given consumers the power of instantaneous sharing and buying without restriction of time, place and in many cases, price. The availability of new technologies such as RFID, product life cycle management (PLM) and many other supply chain management tools have also enabled brands, retailers and manufacturers to reduce product development cycle, improve efficiency and better collaborate across the global process.

For example, digital prototyping gives companies the agility they need to adapt to changes in the market and test new products before they start to incur real production costs. PLM facilities the collaboration between design and development departments and breaks the silo mentality that has reigned for so long in the fashion and apparel industry, eliminating bottle- necks that resulted from outdated linear processes and increasing decision making power earlier on in product development.

4. Change of Business models**

In response to the application of new technologies and consumers’ updated demand, companies start to seriously reconsider their business models, especially the process of design, product development, production and distribution. As noted in the report, fashion brands, which have traditionally gone through retailers who sell on their behalf, have developed retail operations with the purpose of capturing a higher percentage of the final sale price and achieving complete control over the presentation, distribution and final price of their merchandise. Many retailers, however, also start to offer more and more private brands and exclusive products that can more effectively segment market and attract targeted consumers.

The traditional manufacturers are also looking for ways to cut costs and increase efficiency because of the pressure from retailers/brands. Manufacturers also have realized that selling directly to the end consumers is the most powerful way to protect revenue. As quoted by the report, roughly 60% of Chinese apparel manufacturers have launched their own brands. Armed with all that know-how, a growing number of Chinese manufacturers are now turning their efforts toward developing an offer for the domestic market and some are even setting their sights abroad. (recall the topic of “upgrading” in our lecture)

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*: Lectra is a company which provides fashion-focused technology solutions such as the CAD system and the product life-cycle management (PLM) system.

**: Corporate business strategies of fashion apparel companies in the 21st century world economy is specifically addressed in TMD432 (Fashion Retail Supply Chain Management).