Blog: Leonie BarrieLooming US tariffs on China apparel

Leonie Barrie | 5 August 2019

US fashion and footwear brands, retailers and importers were rocked last week after a surprise tweet from US President Donald Trump announced that a punitive 10% tariff will be imposed on $300bn worth of US imports from China – including all textiles, apparel and footwear – from 1 September. 

The move saw US apparel stocks take a battering, while "truly shocking" and "a disaster" are among the first responses from industry executives. A draft list released earlier this year shows that around US$36bn worth of textiles, apparel and home textile products imported into the US from China would be affected – along with increased cost pressures on the US apparel and footwear industry.

Yet for all the talk of China's weakening role as a global apparel supplier, the country looks set to continue its pivotal role in the international textile industry. New data shows the country remained the world's largest investor in spinning, texturing, weaving and knitting machinery last year.

And ironically, the accelerating trade struggle between the US and China coincides with a changing apparel market that is getting more complicated and confusing to navigate.

Other impacts of the uncertainties surrounding the trade war between the two countries include a fall in cotton prices, which have tumbled from a season-high last August to a low in July.

Elsewhere, new research suggests that despite efforts by some European fashion brands and retailers to tackle exploitation of Syrian refugees in Turkish garment supply chains, the majority are still failing to take steps to prevent abuse, particularly beyond their first-tier suppliers.

Cambodia's garment and footwear manufacturers have been warned that a recent increase in "illegal" strikes is hurting the sector and could lead to a loss of confidence from buyers, at a time when the country risks losing the European Union’s Everything But Arms trade benefits.

And Japan is financing a United Nations led project to bolster employment and garment design in the West Bank of Palestine

Meanwhile, in other news, the second-quarter results from US apparel and footwear brands and retailers continue to come in; e-commerce giant Amazon has introduced a new styling service for women; and Meridian Specialty Yarn Group has opened what it says is the first yarn and fibre dyeing operation to be built in the US in over two decades.

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