Blog: Michelle RussellAsia-Pacific trade deal now signed by 11 nations

Michelle Russell | 12 March 2018

The 11 remaining countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have now signed a revised version of the multilateral trade pact without the US, reviving a deal that will slash tariffs and foster trade in a marketplace worth close to around US$13.5trn.

Signed on 8 March in Chile, the landmark move was made on the same day the American President, Donald Trump, went ahead with his threat to impose a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on all aluminium imports. Due to come into effect in just under two weeks, the move has left the US clothing industry reeling, calling it a "self inflicted wound on the nation's economy".

The European Commission has said it is hopeful a larger trade dispute will not evolve as a result of the tariffs and that if imposed, they would be met by "a firm and proportionate response". Discussions are now underway with the US as to whether the European Union (EU) will be subject to the tariffs. Trump has signalled that some countries might be "spared" if negotiations are successful in ensuring their trade actions do not harm US security.

If there is a quality that gives many Israeli companies an edge internationally, it is innovation. And this trait certainly runs through the work of Israeli apparel major Delta Galil, as CEO Isaac Dabah told just-style in an exclusive interview.

Haiti is making its return to the cotton supply chain with the country's first cotton harvest in three decades thanks to help from US outdoor apparel and footwear giant Timberland – which also says it hopes to launch products made with the fibre in the next two years.

Senior executives and analysts in Bangladesh have told just-style how the higher margin suit segment is drawing in major manufacturers, who are now confronting the challenges of building technical know-how, recruiting skilled labour and attracting global buyers. Dhaka-based apparel maker Ananta Group is one. In 2011, the company sank US$20m into the Universal Menswear Ltd, a joint venture with Time International Trading, a leading Romanian tailoring manufacturer.

Faced with a paradigm shift in everything from the way raw materials are sourced, to how products are sold and the tools and technologies that make them, apparel brands and suppliers are still trying to work out the best way to navigate this rapidly-changing landscape. In the so-called 'new era', where speed is no longer an advantage but merely a necessity to remain competitive, there are nine key points that should be top of mind.

Meanwhile, US apparel import volumes returned to month-on-month growth in January with eight of the top ten supplier countries recording double-digit gains – led by Cambodia and Nicaragua. In terms of individual supplier countries, eight of the top-ten recorded a year-on-year increase in January.

And in retail, New Look is planning a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that would see the UK fashion retailer shutter 60 stores, in a move that could put up to 980 jobs under threat. Mothercare has said it may breach its lending agreements and expects full-year profits to be at the lower end of its guidance, while analysts believe Marks & Spencer is only just beginning its marathon of transforming its operations, but that plans to adapt its clothing offer to appeal to a broader, younger consumer base could certainly help.

In other news, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and the American Fiber Manufacturers (AFMA) are to merge; the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) has given its standard an overhaul; Myanmar has approved a 33% increase in the country's minimum wage; and Bangladesh has digitised its labour inspection system.

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