Blog: Leonie BarrieNAFTA trade talks inch forward

Leonie Barrie | 22 January 2018

Negotiators are meeting this week for the sixth round of NAFTA trade talks – and as soon as this deal has been repackaged, the spotlight could turn to the US free trade agreement with Central America. Here we take a look at month by month changes in US garment imports from Mexico and DR-CAFTA countries.

While the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be under threat, Mexican textile and apparel makers continue to take a "no pasa nada" [nothing's the matter] approach to the looming risk that the treaty will end.

A guest columnist also sets out the geopolitical events executives need to monitor in the opening weeks of 2018.

Lured by a shifting global market and better margins, Bangladesh's apparel producers are rushing into the lingerie space – predicting Chinese manufacturers will secure fewer export orders for these lines as their costs rise.

The Bangladesh Government has also formed a new wage board that will recommend a minimum salary for workers in the country's garment industry following recent labour unrest and calls for a more transparent and regular wage review mechanism.

Meanwhile Bogart Lingerie, one of the world's largest intimate apparel exporters, is taking the next step in its commitment to manufacturing in Myanmar with the opening of a new training centre in the country at the end of this month.

European industry associations representing the global garment value chain have united to tackle the release of microfibres during the washing of synthetic textiles – one of the biggest causes of microplastics pollution in the aquatic environment.

And a group representing US apparel and footwear brands and importers has questioned the US Department of Labor over the methods of compiling its bi-annual list of goods produced using child or forced labour.

It is also urging the US Senate to approve a bill that would temporarily reduce or suspend duties on certain raw material imports.

Separately, US importers are being advised to review transactions taking advantage of the First Sale Rule to ensure they are consistent with US Customs and Border Protection's requirements.

Indian garment suppliers for large brands including Hugo Boss, Mothercare, Debenhams and Primark have been enforcing slave labour by holding female workers captive, an investigation has found.

And British retail group Arcadia has told its clothing suppliers it is imposing a discount on all current and existing orders from next month, blaming changes in the retail market.

Marks & Spencer could be cutting around 380 jobs in the UK as it moves to adopt a single-tier distribution network for its clothing and home division.

And Swedish fashion retailer H&M has appointed a diversity leader in response to accusations of racism, after an image of a black child modelling a hoodie reading "coolest monkey in the jungle" appeared on its website.

On the technology front, more businesses are likely to make meaningful progress towards the goal of becoming digital enterprises in 2018. But while digital transformation pushes brands to innovate from the bottom up, change needs to begin at the top.

Retail's 'Big Show', the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo, took place in New York last week, providing an annual opportunity for retailers to tap into the latest technologies for improving everything from customer analysis to inventory management. Here we highlight some of the latest launches and developments.

And in other news, Amazon has patented a mirror that could allow consumers to virtually try on clothes at home; Walmart is planning to cut around 1,000 corporate jobs; and a new online materials database has been launched for brands and manufacturers.

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