Blog: Beth WrightUS-China trade deal brings limited benefits for apparel firms

Beth Wright | 27 January 2020

The 'Phase One' trade agreement signed between the US and China is a step in the right direction after almost two years of trade tensions, but it offers little relief to apparel firms in the ongoing trade conflict with punitive tariffs remaining on 92% of the clothing shipped from China to the US.

Meanwhile, the European Union has warned it will respond to any additional US tariffs with duties of its own on US products in an ongoing trade spat over aircraft subsidies.

The trade bloc has also concluded the first round of negotiations with five Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) countries – including clothing producers Madagascar and Mauritius – to deepen the existing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

While the European Parliament's trade committee has given the green light to the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement (EVFTA), paving the way for the full Parliament to cast its final vote in February.

Elsewhere, Labfresh, a Dutch menswear brand, has uncovered Europe's 15 biggest textile polluting nations in a study aimed at encouraging a change in fashion consumption habits and reducing textile waste.

Tyton BioSciences, which develops recycling technology for the fashion industry, has secured US$8m in a Series A funding round led by Tin Shed Ventures, the investment arm of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia.

And a tool has launched to help consumers discover the carbon impact of their wardrobes – as well as outlining steps they can take to lighten their fashion footprint. 

Staying with sustainability, a new index claims to be the largest peer-to-peer comparison initiative for sourcing sustainable fibres and materials, while encouraging competition in accelerating change and driving a "race-to-the top".

New guidance to help fashion CEOs decide where to focus their sustainability efforts in the year ahead has outlined the importance of redesigning traditional concepts of growth and looking beyond short-term financial incentives.

Denim trade show Kingpins has lambasted the cotton industry for too many claims of sustainability and no clear agreement on what the word means, which it says has left consumers and denim fabric buyers confused.

E-commerce has been a boon for the fashion retail industry. But it also comes with a cost: the overnight deliveries and corresponding returns add dramatically to the carbon footprint of our industry, whether we like to admit it or not, says Robert Antoshak, managing director at Olah Inc.

And Levi Strauss & Co has partnered with chemical management software provider Scivera, and analytical chemistry lab NimkarTek, to develop a screening programme for tracking hazardous contaminants in commodity chemicals in the global apparel supply chain.

Elsewhere, five more factories in Myanmar have completed the chemical management and detox programme developed by the European Union-funded SMART Textile & Garments initiative.

And Guston Amava, a garment manufacturer in Myanmar, has opened its second LEED platinum-certified factory in the country.

Swedish fashion retailer Lindex has launched a joint project in Myanmar to increase access to clean drinking water and sanitation in communities where textile workers live.

Meanwhile, ongoing concerns over the deteriorating labour and human rights situation in Cambodia have again prompted a number of brands and retailers – including Adidas, Levi Strauss, Ralph Lauren and Under Armour – to call on the government to set out steps to bring the country in line with international standards

Plans by the Indonesian government to overhaul the country's nearly two-decades old labour law have led to a spate of nationwide worker protests and criticism from unions.

And the apparel industry in Honduras is betting that US demand for its key T-shirt and underwear products will rise this year, boosting exports by 10% to $2.9bn and mirroring a similar performance in 2019.

Elsewhere, it's been a busy week in retail as UK fashion and homeware retailer Marks & Spencer is shaking up its kidswear range as part of efforts to broaden its apparel and grow its share of the childrenswear market.

Mothercare CEO Mark-Newton Jones has resigned from his position as the group moves through the final stages of its transformation plan to become an international franchise operation.

While in the US, apparel giant VF Corp is to look at strategic alternatives for the occupational portion of its work segment as part of ongoing efforts to focus on its higher-growth, consumer-focused brands.

In other news, Express Inc has outlined a new corporate strategy which includes plans to close about 100 stores by 2022; non-profit Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) has launched what it says is the first standard for sustainable cashmere; and a record Black Friday weekend has helped drive a better than expected sales performance at Asos.

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