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Bangladesh Gains Share of US Apparel Imports in June

Apparel import growth in the United States accelerated in June after slowing to a near halt in April and then picking up in May. Vietnam and, somewhat surprisingly, Bangladesh, were the prime beneficiaries of the uptick.

Total U.S. apparel imports (MFA) increased by 8 percent in the month on a dollar basis and by 7.7% on a square meter equivalent (SME), basis, according to data just released by OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, causing the first half 2015 import increases in the two measures to rise to 4.1% and 5.7%, respectively.

Total apparel imports from China rose by 4.5% in June on a dollar basis and 6.4% on an SME basis as the country continued to ship lower cost apparel to the U.S. In the first half of 2015, imports from China grew by 1.7% in dollars, less than half the pace of total apparel imports, to $12.6 billion, causing China’s share of U.S. apparel imports to drop to 32.3% from 33 percent in the year-ago period, the biggest loss of any major trading partner.

Apparel imports from Vietnam increased in June by 18.4% year-over-year to $923 million, making it the number two source of U.S. apparel imports, and giving the country a 1.2-percentage-point share gain so far this year to 12.7% of total dollar imports of apparel, or $4.9 billion. Year-to-date, dollar imports from Vietnam are up by 15.4%. With passing of TPP not much closer to conclusion, however, Vietnam’s continued rapid growth as a source of imported U.S. apparel is by no means ensured.

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Imports from Bangladesh increased by 24.4% in June to $464 million, the biggest percentage increase of any top 10 trading partner, giving the country a 9.5% increase year to date, and causing it to edge out Indonesia as the third largest source of U.S. apparel imports.

Apparel imports from India grew by 17.6% to $307 million in the month, bringing the year-to-date total to over $2 billion dollars, up 10 percent compared to the same period in 2014.

Indonesia’s apparel shipments to the U.S. have been virtually flat in the first six months of 2015, but increased by 11 percent on a dollar basis in June.

Though not among the top 10 trading partners, Sri Lanka has seen its imports to the U.S. increase by more than 16 percent so far this year, to $999 million, and imports from Burma (Myanmar) have increased by more than 130 percent, to over $12 million. 

Myanmar has long been considered to have significant potential as a source of apparel manufacturing once issues with infrastructure, human rights practices and skilled labor supply are addressed.