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Bangladesh Bounce Buoys US Apparel Imports Growth

As retailers and brands prepared for crucial fourth quarter selling, U.S. apparel imports increased 20.58 percent for the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2021 to 22.56 billion square meter equivalents (SME), the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) reported on Wednesday.

However, the pace of imports continued to slip, likely due to waning consumer demand. After rising 24 percent in the first half of the year, U.S. apparel imports had receded to an increase of 22.91 percent year to date through July, OTEXA data showed.

Top supplier China saw its shipments rise 19.3 percent through August to 7.97 billion SME. This was a gain from the 17.4 percent rise from a year earlier to 2.04 billion SME, down from a 22.41 percent increase through July, as tariffs remain in place and companies diversify their sourcing strategies.

Last month, organizations including the Retail Litigation Center, National Retail Federation, American Apparel & Footwear Association and Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America in a joint statement called on the United States Court of International Trade to end the Section 301 tariffs against China.

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The coalition criticized the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) “insufficient response” to tariff comments submitted by industry groups. USTR confirmed that representatives of domestic industries benefiting from the tariff actions in the Section 301 investigation of “China’s Acts, Policies and Practices Related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Innovation” want to keep the punitive duties in place.

USTR said accordingly, as required by statute, the tariffs did not expire on their four-year anniversary dates and the office will proceed with the next steps as provided in the statute. In May, USTR commenced the statutory four-year process by notifying representatives of domestic industries benefitting from the tariff actions that the duties might expire and giving them the opportunity to support their continuation. Since it received requests to keep the duties in place, the tariff actions have not terminated and USTR will review whether to take any action at all.

The groups have filed an amicus brief in support of the challenge to List 3 and List 4 China Section 301 tariffs.

“The time has come for the Court of International Trade to impose the normal remedy for unlawful agency action and vacate the tariffs that are taxing American consumers, contributing to the exorbitant rise in inflation and burdening our supply chains,” the coalition said. “All illegally collected List 3 and List 4 tariff duties should be returned. The Administrative Procedure Act demands it. American businesses and consumers should no longer be forced to pay higher prices on products because of tariffs that USTR cannot reasonably justify.”

The tariffs were one of the few policies President Biden continued from the Trump administration after he took office. Biden said he wanted to use them as “leverage” against China in negotiations over bilateral trade.

Meanwhile OTEXA’s report showed imports from No. 2 producer Vietnam increased 18.09 percent in the period to 3.57 billion SME, outpacing the seven-month rise of 17.4 percent. Shipments from Bangladesh jumped 36.35 percent though August to 2.23 billion SME compared to the previous month’s gain of just 4.4 percent.

Rounding out the Top 10 Asian producers, India’s shipments rose 35.55 percent to 1.12 billion SME; Cambodia’s increased 29.78 percent to 1 billion SME, and imports from Pakistan bounced back a bit with a 13.94 percent rise to 658.52 million SME. Apparel imports had risen just 4.7 percent year to date in July in the midst of devastating floods that had ravaged the country.

Western Hemisphere suppliers in the Top 10 were part of a tepid 5.95 percent increase for the region in the period to 2.94 billion SME. Imports from Honduras were up 10.94 percent to 634.68 million SME, while shipments from Nicaragua increased 16.38 percent to 452.43 million SME and imports from Mexico fell 1.56 percent to 552.03 million SME.