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US Apparel Imports Tumbled 45 Percent in April

Epitomized by a $1.1 billion decline in cotton apparel and household goods imports in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the global coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on sourcing.

With most apparel stores shut down and importers canceling or slashing  orders due to the economic fallout from COVID-19 and government stay-at-home orders in place at the time, overall apparel imports from the world tumbled 45 percent in April compared to a year earlier to $3.41 billion, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) reported Thursday.

U.S. apparel imports from China fell a staggering 46.44 percent year to date through April to $3.89 billion compared to the same period in 2019, according to OTEXA. For the month, imports from China sank 59 percent to a value of $621 million, falling well behind the now top supplier Vietnam. Also impacting China’s status are the effects of the trade and political turmoil with the U.S. that has put a tariff-reducing trade deal in limbo.

Shipments from Vietnam were down 20 percent in April year over year to $805.35 million. For the first four months of 2020, imports from Vietnam dipped 1.31 percent to $4.19 billion.

Among the Top 10 suppliers, only Bangladesh and Cambodia saw increases for the year to date. Imports from Bangladesh rose 2.13 percent in the period to $2.08 billion, while shipments from Cambodia were up 16.92 percent to $946 million.

All the rest posted decreases in imports to the U.S. for the year through April, most significantly from Western Hemisphere suppliers severely impacted by the pandemic. Imports from Mexico tumbled 29.71 percent to $733 million, while shipments from Honduras fell 29.13 percent to $585 million and those from El Salvador declined 24.61 percent to $426 million.

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Among the rest of the top Asian suppliers, India’s imports were down 113.07 percent year to date to $1.36 billion, Indonesia’s fell 8.66 percent to $1.43 billion and Pakistan’s dipped 2.02 percent to $456 million.

The BEA and U.S. Census Bureau also reported Thursday that the U.S. trade deficit was $49.4 billion in April, up $7.1 billion from a revised $42.3 billion in March. April exports were $151.3 billion, $38.9 billion less than March exports, while April imports were $200.7 billion, $31.8 billion less than March imports.

“The declines in exports and imports that continued in April were, in part, due to the impact of COVID-19, as many businesses were operating at limited capacity or ceased operations completely, and the movement of travelers across borders was restricted,” BEA said.

Despite the major decline in apparel imports, the trade deficit with China increased $9 billion to $26 billion in April. Exports increased $2.1 billion to $9.3 billion, while imports advanced $11 billion to $35.2 billion.

The trade surplus with South and Central America decreased $2.1 billion to $2.9 billion in April. Exports fell $4.3 billion to $8.7 billion and imports decreased $2.2 billion to $5.8 billion.

The trade deficit with Mexico decreased $5.6 billion to $3.3 billion in the month. Exports were down $7 billion to $12.4 billion and imports declined $12.6 billion to $15.8 billion.