Blog: Leonie BarrieTariffs back at top of Trump's trade agenda

Leonie Barrie | 4 June 2018

Tariffs soared back to the top of Trump's trade agenda last week, with the imposition of punitive tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium, and plans to proceed with an additional 25% tariff on imports from China.

With imports of steel and aluminium from Canada, Mexico and the European Union now back on the US hit-list, the EU will move ahead with its own temporary safeguard duties on US imports, including clothing and footwear. The decision was been slammed by the US clothing sector.

Separately, the US President outlined plans to proceed with additional tariffs on US$50bn worth of imports from China.

We also looked at how firms can shorten the fashion cycle. To get new styles into stores more quickly, fashion companies must improve internal collaboration, tap into consumer insights, and start to digitise the value chain, according to new insight from McKinsey.

The challenge is exemplified at US speciality clothing retailer Gap Inc, which is still struggling to get its namesake Gap brand back on track – with inventory issues the latest to weigh on performance. A key problem is that the timing has been hampered by difficulties with new inventory assortment and allocation software, leading to a pile-up of excess stock.

If there was a central theme to the 2018 edition of Texprocess Americas held in Atlanta, it was the move towards made-to-order apparel. While this concept is in its relative infancy, equipment manufacturers are aggressively pursuing how to make it a reality.

Meanwhile, Walmart, H&M and Gap Inc have all come under fire from a global coalition that claims women who work in Asian factories making the companies' clothes are at daily risk of assault, sexual abuse and other harassment.

The right of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to continue working in the country has been thrown into renewed uncertainty after the high court extended an injunction preventing the government from prolonging its operations.

And concerns that Vietnam's local governments are not licensing textile and dyeing projects over pollution fears may prevent the country from taking full advantage of the CPTPP trade deal, an industry association has warned.

Even so, the country still appears to be eyeing a massive hike in exports to US$200bn by 2035 thanks to investment in new technology and automation, and a shift in production methods.

In other news, the world's top ten apparel brands are calculated to be worth US$111.3bn; a new on-demand knitwear platform allows users to design their own products; and concerns continue over the use of forced labour to pick cotton in Uzbekistan.

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