Blog: Leonie BarrieTrump trade probe could have costs for cotton

Leonie Barrie | 16 October 2017

An International Trade Commission hearing got underway last week as part of the Trump administration's probe into China's intellectual property practices under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. The action gives the president broad authority to impose tariffs on foreign goods – and, as we investigate, could hold dire consequences for US cotton producers.

One of the key questions debated at the recent Origin Africa event in Mauritius was whether or not the continent is prepared for significant change in the way that its clothing and textile manufacturing sector does business, ranging from the design and manufacturing of goods to how the customer is serviced?

But Vietnam's textile and apparel industry has opposed a proposed 6.5% minimum wage increase from the beginning of next year, saying the move will reduce competition, shift the labour structure and prevent expansion.

The industry body representing Cambodia's garment sector has also called on its government to help manufacturers offset a higher minimum wage and worker-benefit package due to come into play in 2018.

A number of high profile initiatives have been launched to tackle pesticide use in cotton farming – but a new probe suggests the decline has not been as substantial as some believe.

The research was one of several reports released at the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference in Washington DC. A separate investigation has found that more sustainable cotton production is now successfully replacing genetically modified (GM) cotton in India.

And as part of its goal to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced material by 2030, H&M has invested in Swedish textile recycling technology specialist Re:newcell, which converts old textiles into pulp to produce new clothing.

Brands and retailers do not care enough about the environment, concludes another report by WWF Switzerland, which says most firms do not use sustainable raw materials, consume too much water, and pollute water heavily throughout their value-added chain.

As the holidays approach and manufacturing peak season has started in sourcing powerhouses throughout Asia, data on inspection and audit demand shows the tighter shipping deadlines are putting a strain on ethical compliance.

The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association has hit back at a report from international NGO ActionAid alleging female workers in the country's garment industry are subject to discrimination.

But the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) continues to have a "small but positive impact" on exports, according to the latest biennial update on the trade programme – with Haiti's apparel sector one of the main beneficiaries.

Retail's history is littered with stories about disruptive change and retailers that couldn't keep up. It's time to take a deeper look at why, and to reflect on the common practices that are holding us back from truly meaningful change.

Meanwhile, in other news, Coach Inc is to change its name to Tapestry Inc; unions are urging more fashion brands to sign up to the new Bangladesh Accord; and a new survey suggests Nike is losing its appeal with teens in the US.

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