The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement was concluded in December 2015. The agreement is EU’s second free trade agreement with a Southeast Asian country (after Singapore) and is the most ambitious and comprehensive FTA that the EU has ever concluded with a middle-income developing country.
Statistics from the Eurostat show that Vietnam was EU’s sixth largest extra-region apparel supplier in 2015 (after China, Bangladesh, Turkey, India and Cambodia), accounting for 3.5% of imports in value (or €28.0 billion) and 2.8% in volume.
The EU-Vietnam free trade agreement is expected to substantially expand Vietnam’s textile and apparel exports to the EU market. On the one hand, EU’s import duties on textile and apparel from Vietnam will be eliminated through a seven-year phaseout period once the agreement comes into force (see below). On the other hand, a garment made in Vietnam which contains fabrics made in South Korea or other ASEAN countries with which the EU has a free trade agreement in force will still be qualified for duty-free treatment under the agreement.
Complied based on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement: Agreed text as of January 2016.
The legal review of the negotiated text is currently on-going and will be followed by translation into the EU’s official languages and Vietnamese. The EU Commission will then present a proposal to the Council of Ministers for approval of the agreement and ratification by the European Parliament. The agreement is expected to come into force in 2018.
The following analysis is from the latest Just-Style Op-ed Is China Losing Its Edge as a US Apparel Supplier.
A fact-checking review of trade statistics in 2016 of a total 167 categories of T&A products categorized by the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) suggests that textile and apparel (T&A) “Made in China” have no near competitors in the U.S. import market. Specifically, in 2016:
- Of the total 11 categories of yarn, China was the top supplier for 2 categories (or 18%);
- Of the total 34 categories of fabric, China was the top supplier for 25 categories (or 74%);
- Of the total 106 categories of apparel, China was the top supplier for 88 categories (or 83%);
- Of the total 16 categories of made-up textiles, China was the top supplier for 12 categories (or 68%);
In comparison, for those Asian T&A suppliers regarded as China’s top competitors:
- Vietnam was the top supplier for only 5 categories of apparel (less than 5% of the total);
- Bangladesh was the top supplier for only 2 categories of apparel (less than 2% of the total)
- India was the top supplier for 2 categories of fabric (9% of the total), one category of apparel (1% of the total) and 5 categories of made-up textiles (41.7% of the total)
Notably, China not only was the top supplier for many T&A products but also held a lion’s market shares. For example, in 2016:
- For the 34 categories of fabric that China was the top supplier, China’s average market shares reached 41%, 23 percentage points higher than the 2nd top suppliers for these categories
- For the 88 categories of apparel that China was the top supplier, China’s average market shares reached 53%, 38 percentage points higher than the 2nd top suppliers for these categories.
- For the 16 categories of made-up textiles that China was the top supplier, China’s average market shares reached 57%, 40 percentage points higher than the 2nd top suppliers for these categories.
It is also interesting to see that despite the reported rising labor cost, T&A “Made in China” are NOT becoming more expensive. On the contrary, the unit price of U.S. T&A imports from China in 2016 was 6.8% lower than a year earlier, whereas over the same period the unit price for U.S. T&A imports from rest of the world only declined by 2.9%.
Furthermore, T&A “Made in China” are demonstrating even bigger price competitiveness compared with other suppliers to the U.S. market. For example, in 2016, the unit price of “Made China” was only 78% of the price of “Made in Vietnam” (in 2012 was 89%), 88% of “Made in Bangladesh” (in 2012 was 100%), 86% of “Made in Mexico” (in 2012 was 103%) and 72% of “Made in India” (in 2012 was 81%).
Are the results surprising? How to explain China’s demonstrated price competitiveness despite its reported rising labor cost? What’s your outlook for the future of China as a sourcing destination for U.S. fashion brands and retailers? Please feel free to share your views.
#1 Why do you think the Indian girls from rural villages chose to leave their home for the new garment factory jobs in the city? Overall, was it a right choice for them?
#2 Were the Indian girls happy about their jobs in the garment factory? Why or why not?
#3 How do you compare your life to the Indian girls in the article? And please just imagine: ten years later, what will the life of these Indian girls look like? How about yours?
#4 How do you think these young girls feel about giving up their old lives for a shot at a new one? Do you believe that it would be hard to give up your customs and ways of life to try and give yourself a different future than the people you are used to? Do you think it’s hard for many families in Prabhati and Sashi’s village to accept the path they have taken instead of a traditional one?
#5 Do you think owners of the garment factory treated the Indian girls “fairly” according to the article? Why or why not? Please also briefly explain your benchmark for fairness.
Please mention the question # in your comment.
Although the trade relationship with China is often blamed for causing job losses in the United States, a new study prepared for the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) by Oxford Economics suggests overall positive impacts of China on the US economy. According to the study:
- China has grown to become the third-largest destination for American goods and services, only after Mexico and Canada. China purchased $165 billion in goods and services from the United States in 2015, representing 7.3 percent of all US exports and about 1 percent of total US economic output. By 2030, US exports to China are projected to rise to more than $520 billion annually.
- The US-China trade relationship supports roughly 2.6 million jobs in the United States. Specifically, US exports to China directly and indirectly supported 8 million new jobs in 2015.
- The reported gross US trade deficit with China is overstated and somehow misleading. As China has become an integral part of the global manufacturing supply chain, much of its exports are comprised of foreign-produced components delivered for final assembly in China. If the value of these imported components is subtracted from China’s exports, the US trade deficit with China is reduced by half, to about 1 percent of GDP—about the same as the US trade deficit with the European Union.
- Additionally, “Made in China” lowered prices in the United States for consumer goods. As estimated, US consumer prices are 1 percent – 1.5 percent lower because of Chinese imports–trade with China saved each American household up to $850 in 2015. Given the fact that hourly labor costs in the textile industry were $2.65 in China in 2014 compared with $17.71 in the United States, the report argues that replacing Chinese imports of textiles and clothing with US manufactured products would significantly raise US consumer prices.
In terms of the textile and apparel (T&A) sector, the report suggests that:
- The rising U.S. import from China mostly represents China’s displacement of imports from other countries and regions: China has been squeezing out traditional apparel manufacturers such as Mexico, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
- Meanwhile, textile and apparel manufacturing is one of the very few sectors that observe a paralleled pattern of rising imports from China and declining gross value added in the United States since 2000. In comparison, over the same period other sectors that experienced the most rapid growth in Chinese imports are also the sectors where US businesses have seen the strongest growth.
The report can be downloaded from HERE.
#1 How have US importers/retailers/fashion brands which source from China reacted to China’s rising labor cost in recent years? Any specific examples of companies’ practices and strategies?
#2 It is widely reported that China’s labor cost has been rising quickly in recent years (around 14% annually between 2010 and 2014). But trade data didn’t show a significant drop of China’s textile and apparel exports to the US. Why is that?
#3 Why do you think people have a conception of China being a “highly reliable” sourcing destination for textile and apparel? What is China’s unique competitiveness?
#4 Many domestic and foreign firms have started investing in textile/fiber factories in Vietnam because of the yarn forward rules of origin in TPP. Would it be in the United States’ best interest to become one of these investors? Why or why not?
#5 In the class we discussed the “flying geese model” and the phenomenon of “Factory Asia”. Particularly, Asian countries are forming an ever more integrated textile and apparel supply chain—for example, apparel manufacturers in Asia are gradually using more textile inputs made in Asia rather than made outside the region. Does it mean that the United States has no role to play in Asia-based textile and apparel supply chain? Will the TPP make a difference?
#6 Should US allow China to join the TPP? Why or why not? If China joins the TPP, what will be the implications for the pattern of textile and apparel trade in the Asia-Pacific region?
#7 What is the relationship between the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Alternatives? Competitors? Friends? Foes? Why are there so many different free trade agreements (FTA) in the same region?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and recommend any additional articles/readings/resources relevant to the discussion. Please mention the question # in your reply.
#1 How shall we describe the relationship between the Alliance and the Accord? Are they collaborators or competitors? Do you think the Alliance and the Accord can join forces?
#2 How many inspectors are “enough” for Bangladesh? The case study mentions that the Alliance and the Accord are observing around 2,000 factories, but how about the other 3,000 in Bangladesh? And how about those unknown and “undocumented” factories, where the working conditions could be even worse?
#3 Do Western fashion brands genuinely care about what is happening in the Bangladeshi garment factories? Or do they actually care about their own interests—profit, public image and reputation among consumers?
#4 What has made Western fashion brands stay in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza tragedy instead of moving their sourcing orders to other Asian countries in the area such as Cambodia and Vietnam?
#5 How transparent should be companies’ supply chain? Should fashion brands be required to disclose more supply chain information—such as where their products were made and who made them? What could be the difficulty of enforcing a more transparent apparel supply chain?
#6 In addition to more frequent inspections, what other measures can be taken to improve social responsibility practices in the garment industry?
#7 Three years after the Rana Plaza, are you satisfied with the changes that have happened in Bangladesh? What major social responsibility problems in the Bangladeshi garment industry remain unsolved?
[Please feel free to join our online discussion. For the purpose of convenience, please mention the question # in your reply/comment.]