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China Loses Share of US Apparel Imports to Vietnam and Bangladesh in IH 2013

Helped by relatively low labor costs, apparel imports from Vietnam and Bangladesh grew faster than those from China and India in the first half of 2013.

Vietnam now has a more than 10% share of U.S. apparel imports which, though much smaller than China’s 33.8% share, is growing the fastest, on both a dollar and unit (square meter equivalent basis), of all the key apparel trading partners.

Imports from the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries grew by over 14% to $386 million, $383 million of which were from Haiti. Imports from the still-earthquake-ravaged nation were up by 15%, and consisted primarily of cotton t-shirts and underwear. Imports from other CBI countries were flat, on average.

Total apparel imports grew 3.2% on a dollar basis through June compared to the same period last year, according to the most recent data published by the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent basis, increased 5.8% in the year-to-date period, driving the average cost per SME  down by 2.5%.

Imports from China have increased by only 2.4% on a dollar basis so far this year, slower than the overall apparel import growth rate of 3.2%. Gains in women’s and girls’ cotton tops and pants, manmade fiber men’s tops and women’s blouses, and bras and other intimate apparel were offset by declines in many other categories. China had the second largest share loss of U.S. apparel imports in the first half, after Mexico.

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Vietnam maintained its strong number two position as an apparel trading partner with 10.2% of the year-to-date total, thanks to increases in manmade fiber dresses, women’s woven and knit tops and men’s manmade fiber knit shirts. Total apparel imports from Vietnam so far this year are $3.7 billion, up 12.5% from last year. The cost per SME of apparel imported from Vietnam fell by only .5% in the month.

Beleagured Bangladesh has gained .3 points of US apparel market share in the first half of 2013, to 6.8% of total apparel imports. Despite the concerns over factory safety, it is now the fourth largest source of US apparel, and may soon rival Indonesia for the number three spot.

The US has imported $36.4 billion worth of apparel so far this year. Overall, cotton apparel imports have risen 1%, while those of man-made fiber apparel have increased by 8%. Imported apparel of wool, silk and other fibers have declined.

Mexico, Honduras and India have also suffered significant share losses in U.S. apparel. Both CAFTA and OECD lost share to ASEAN and CBI.