Top stories on just-style in December included an interview with Esquel Group vice chairman and CEO John Cheh; a look at efforts by the Chinese government to boost investment in the textile industries of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) countries; and the move by the US and China to reach an agreement on a Phase One trade deal.

1: Garment worker killed in Bangladesh factory blast – Update
Bangladesh's Accord on Fire and Building Safety has identified critical structural and electrical damage following a fire at a sweater factory in Bangladesh that supplies major brands including Next and H&M.

2: Eco-friendly investment can turn sustainability into profit 
Moving towards sustainability in the clothing and textile sector requires a huge amount of long-term investment – be it new sewage processing systems or recycling technology. But how to get the rewards from these investments? At this year's Integral Conversation conference organised by Hong Kong-based shirt manufacturing giant Esquel Group, companies in the fashion industry were exploring solutions.

3: Esquel CEO finds a way through US tariffs
The US-China trade war has hit the Chinese clothing and textile export sector severely, but companies that have invested in manufacturing sites outside China have been better protected, Esquel Group vice chairman and CEO John Cheh has told just-style.

4: China set to strengthen Belt & Road textile reach
The Chinese government has started to double down on driving increased Chinese investment in the textile industry in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, notably in Central Asia.

5: Tariffs delayed as US-China agree Phase One trade deal
The United States and China have reached an agreement on a Phase One trade deal, in a move that will delay new tariffs that had been due to take effect over the weekend and reduces the rates currently imposed on most apparel and textile products.

6: US apparel imports continue to feel weight of China tariffs
The knock-on effect of retailers bringing orders forward to beat the September tariff hike on clothing shipments from China still continues to be felt months later. The volume of US apparel imports dropped for the third consecutive month in October, with shipment volumes from the East Asian supply powerhouse falling by close to a third month-on-month. Meanwhile, rivals Bangladesh and Pakistan were the only countries to book an increase.  

7: US apparel groups hail deal on USMCA trade pact
After two years of talks, a deal has finally been struck on the revised terms of the United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, with US apparel and textile industry groups urging swift Congressional and presidential approval.

8: SMART Textile & Garments project begins in Myanmar
The EU funded SMART Myanmar project is moving into its third phase under the new name SMART Textiles & Garments, and will be supported by international retailers including H&M, Bestseller and C&A looking to boost performance within their Myanmar supply chains.

9: Guess five-year plan sees changes to China sourcing
US fashion retailer Guess Inc has set out a strategic five-year plan designed to grow the business and boost profitability as it eyes an additional US$250m in sales by fiscal 2025 – with operating margin gains helped by vendor consolidation and a move away from China sourcing.

10: Bangladesh court rejects Nirapon bid to overturn ban
Bangladesh's Supreme Court has reportedly rejected an appeal to overturn a ban on the inspection and training activities of Nirapon, the country's newest safety monitoring initiative, which it imposed last month.

11: Cambodia shrugs off EU trade benefit concerns
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has reportedly waived off concerns at pressure from the European Union (EU) to improve the country's human rights record or risk losing its preferential trade status.

12: Business Transformation – How to move beyond the buzzword
External cost cutting and wishful top line improvements, it has to mean "stop doing the things the company does badly and loses money on," writes Malcolm Newbery.

13: Honduras maquila industry investment to boost jobs
Honduras expects a significant increase in private investment – and around 15,000 new jobs in the country's maquila (manufacturing) sector – by 2020 thanks to various agreements reached by the government.

14. M&S Founders Factory invests in three fashion start-ups
UK retailer M&S has started working with six fast-growth start-ups selected from 100 new businesses as part of its Founders Factory joint venture.

15: Crystal develops denim from cutting room scraps
Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturing giant Crystal International Group is stepping up its efforts to recycle textile waste with the imminent launch of denim fabric made from cutting room scraps.

16: UK fashion manufacturers must consolidate or die
In Britain there are too many small clothing and footwear manufacturers making too little money. It is time for the sector to take a leaf from the German market and realise that for many it is merge or die.

17: India factory fire underscores ongoing safety violations
A fire that swept through a bag factory in the Indian capital Delhi at the weekend, killing 43 workers, has led to renewed calls for enforcement of factory fire and building safety regulations.

18: H&M Group to test subscription rental in China
Retailer H&M Group has partnered with China's largest fashion rental platform YCloset to test subscription rentals in the country, in a move that will allow Chinese consumers to hire apparel from its COS brand.

19: VF Corp eyes 30% in supply chain carbon emissions by 2030
Apparel and footwear giant VF Corp has set new targets to slash its carbon emissions over the next decade, including a 30% absolute reduction of Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions focusing on farm-to-retail materials, sourcing operations and logistics.

20: J.Crew reaches agreement on Madewell spin-off
J.Crew Group has agreed terms for the spinoff and initial public offering (IPO) of its Madewell brand but more than tripled its net loss in the third quarter.