Blog: Leonie BarrieTrump's tariffs threaten textile trade

Leonie Barrie | 26 March 2018

With tariff discussions looming over the White House, just-style’s news and analysis last week was not surprisingly dominated by talk of a possible trade war.

Everyone in the apparel, footwear, and accessory industry should be on high alert, according to Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), in an exclusive op-ed.

As President Donald Trump prepares to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports into the United States under Section 301 of the Trade Act – which could include apparel and footwear – we look at the potential winners and losers in the global garment trade.

Groups representing some of the largest apparel and footwear brands and retailers have also written to the US Administration expressing their concerns over the move.

In a separate spat, the European Commission released a draft list of US-made apparel products that could attract retaliatory duties in response to new US aluminium and steel duties.

The US subsequently suspended the tariffs on imports from the European Union as well as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and South Korea – but not China, which responded by slapping tariffs on US$3bn of American imports.

Also on the trade front, Vietnam is expected to yield gains from the Comprehensive and Progressive Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a new report predicts, with the country's apparel sector one of the main beneficiaries.

And the provisional Brexit transition deal agreed last week between the UK and EU on their relationship from March 2019 suggests more or less nothing will change next year.

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has a busy time ahead if it is to complete remediation across its affiliated factories – with country director Jim Moriarty telling just-style it is imperative the new organisation that will take over its operations is both credible and independent.

Cambodia is facing further pressure to adjust its labour laws after a number of groups representing major US and European international brands and retailers wrote an open letter to the country's premier urging action to improve worker rights.

Groups have also welcomed the labour law reform process underway in Myanmar, but want to see regulations that provide a foundation for mature industrial relations and strong growth for the garment and footwear sectors.

Two leading initiatives trying to move the apparel industry towards a single solution for compliance and sustainability are to work together to reduce the time and money spent on duplicated auditing. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and the Garment, Apparel, Footwear and Textile Initiative (GAFTI) are to join forces by hiring joint employees in Hong Kong – a step that also gives the SAC its first on-the-ground presence outside North America and Europe.

A growing trend indicates the reimagining of the relationship between the customer and supplier – and also the way in which the suppliers and factories are valued – with Science of Apparel setting a new standard for the future.

While a new technology that uses apples to create a leather-like material, an ethical ratings mobile app, textiles made from kelp, and a biodegradable bio-polyester are among the latest sustainable innovations to help brands and manufacturers.

Improved efficiency and productivity led Li & Fung to a 21.8% increase in operating profit in the services segment of its core supply chain solutions business in 2017, as it revealed a strong start to its current three-year plan.

And in other news, Levi Strauss is to use new denim finishing processes; VF Corp is selling Nautica to Authentic Brands Group; and Gap Inc aims to conserve 10bn litres of water by the end of 2020.

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