Blog: Leonie BarrieTrump trade policies and China tensions top concerns

Leonie Barrie | 11 January 2017

This week our focus turns to first thoughts from a panel of industry experts consulted by just-style on the challenges and opportunities likely to face the apparel supply chain in 2017, with prospects for volatile and uneven growth, Trump’s trade policies, and tensions between the US and China among the issues highlighted.

Further details also emerged last week on Donald Trump's likely trade stance, with the US president-elect nominating Robert Lighthizer as US trade representative responsible for the day-to-day negotiation of new trade agreements.

As for the prospect that import quotas could return, it’s a real worry for Robert Antoshak. With all of the tough talk emanating from Trump about restricting trade, he asks whether the long defunct Multi-Fibre Arrangement may be a harbinger of the future?

Conversely, executives in Central America are increasingly optimistic the region could benefit from a NAFTA re-write under US president-elect Donald Trump, with many hoping for a surge in apparel exports as China orders swing back to the region.

Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding Britain's decision to leave the European Union, the government's deadline of 31 March to begin two years of exit talks is one of the few, more tangible dates that businesses can factor in. But what is its likely impact on supply chain networks across Europe?

As the global clothing and textile industry looks towards an increasingly unpredictable 2017, fast fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) invited stakeholders to an event in Myanmar – attended by just-style – to look at how to maintain stability on the factory front by improving labour relations.

But Bangladesh's garment industry is once again facing safety fears after a US State Department security update warned of Islamic State (IS) terrorists targeting clothing buyers in the country's most secure zones.

Concerns are also being expressed over the treatment of garment workers, trade union leaders and worker activists in Bangladesh following wage protests last month in the capital Dhaka – with brands who source from the country being urged to contact the government to put an end to the "sinister crackdown."

Brands are also being urged to take steps to tackle various forms of modern slavery, including child slavery, which have been found in around 90% of spinning mills in South India producing yarn that makes its way into garment factories in India, Bangladesh and China.

On the retail front, December proved to be a dismal month for the handful of US apparel retailers still reporting comparable sales figures, with soft in-store traffic over the holiday season meaning that only two recorded a rise.

US retail giant Macy's has slashed its full-year profit outlook and says it plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs through store closures and moves to streamline its management team.

And Sears Holdings Corporation is to shutter an additional 150 loss-making stores,two days after netting a US$500m lifeline to stay afloat.

Analysts have also set out some of the key themes they expect to dominate the European retail scene in 2017, including more currency headwinds, unseasonal weather, a continued shift to e-commerce and whatever hurdles Brexit will bring.

Meanwhile in other news, Amazon is preparing to develop its own line of workout clothing; a new eco-friendly yarn dye process adds colour pigment to the melted raw material to cut waste, chemicals and water; and new forecasts see international cotton prices falling in the second half of the season.

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