During the 20th Annual Meeting on 11 April, NCTO chairman Chapman highlighted the severe economic challenges facing the US textile industry.

He emphasised that challenges such as inflation, global economic slowdown, weak consumer demand, excessive retail inventory and manufacturing contraction were exacerbated by predatory trade practices and instances of customs fraud. According to Chapman, these factors are placing the “vital and strategic” domestic supply chain in the US at significant risk. They will also continue to challenge the sector through 2024 and will likely lead to plant closures and layoffs.

He argued that the fallout also extends beyond the country’s borders to its hemisphere partners, specifically those involved in US free trade agreements like CAFTA-DR and USMCA. Chapman pointed out that these partners, along with US textile producers, participate in an “integrated, vertical textile and apparel co-production chain,” serving as a counterweight to production in Asia.

Chapman stated in the speech: “While the domestic textile industry is a key contributor to the US economy and a critical part of the military and public health industrial base, our sector is facing a crisis of historic proportions as the result of rapidly deteriorating market conditions coupled with unchecked foreign predatory trade practices and diminished customs enforcement activities.

“To address these troubling trends, the National Council of Textile Organisations (NCTO) has been highly engaged with industry allies in Congress and the Biden administration to confront the severe crisis and challenging issues facing the industry. NCTO hosted or participated in numerous congressional and administrative visits throughout 2023 and into early 2024.”

Key US trade facts and figures

  • In 2023, the value of US man-made fibre, textile, and apparel shipments totaled an estimated $64.8bn compared with $67.4bn, in shipments in 2022.
  • US exports of fibres, textiles and apparel were $29.7bn in 2023 compared with $33.9bn in 2022.
  • The US is the second largest individual country exporter of textile-related products in the world.
  • The US textile and apparel industry invested $20.9bn in new plants and equipment from 2012 to 2021.
  • US manufacturers have opened new facilities throughout the textile production chain, including recycling facilities to convert textile and other waste to new textile uses and resins.

He further said that NCTO’s effective advocacy efforts resulted in a long list of accomplishments to counter some of the damaging illegal trade practices and bolster the industry.

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Chapman concluded: “At the end of the day, some key fundamentals for the US textile industry remained sound, while others weakened. While we expect to see ongoing challenges this year, which will test our resolve, we know collectively as an industry this will not weaken our resilience or our innovative spirit.”