Seemingly buoyed by a truce in the trade war with the U.S., importers upped their intake of apparel from China in January, bringing in $2.52 billion worth of goods, an 8.5 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the monthly report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).
The January uptick came on the heels of U.S. apparel imports from China increasing just 1.34 percent in value in 2018 to $27.37 billion compared to 2017. It also came as companies rushed to get goods out of China before Lunar New Year on Feb. 2 and resultant factory shutdowns.
The U.S. and China are still working on a deal to settle their trade dispute, which saw tariffs imposed by both countries on a range of goods in 2018, although mostly sparing apparel and textiles.
The U.S. international trade deficit decreased in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The deficit was $51.1 billion in January compared to $59.9 billion in December.
The goods deficit fell $8.2 billion in January to $73.3 billion, while the services surplus increased $500 million to $22.1 billion. The goods deficit with China, which includes apparel, textiles and footwear, declined $5.5 billion to $33.2 billion in January.
As companies looked to stock up for spring, overall U.S. apparel imports were up 8.31 percent in January from a year earlier to a value of $7.57 billion, OTEXA reported. Vietnam’s production momentum continued, with its shipments to the U.S. rising 15.13 percent to $1.27 billion.
Among other Asian manufacturing mavens, imports from Bangladesh rose 8.76 percent in January from a year earlier to a value of $535 million, India’s shipments increased 10.94 percent to $382 million, and 8.31 percent, or $232 million, more apparel arrived from Cambodia. Also posting smaller gains were Indonesia, up 0.64 percent to $408 million, and Pakistan, with a 1.92 percent gain to $131 million.
Western Hemisphere free trade partner countries made up the rest of the top 10 suppliers in January. El Salvador was the only one of the trio to see gains, with its shipments increasing 4.29 percent to $122 million worth of goods, while imports from Mexico fell 12.37 percent to a value of $241 million, and shipments from Honduras dipped 0.69 percent to $153 million.
Mexico had a rollercoaster year in 2018, ending it with imports to the U.S. falling 5.76 percent to $3.36 billion. Some of the decline was traced to the uncertainty of its duty-free status as the U.S., Mexico and Canada were renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, which resulted in the trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement signed in November and now pending legislative approval.
Elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, and among the members of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, in addition to El Salvador and Honduras, imports from Guatemala rose 14.6 percent to $124.39 million in January year-to-year, shipments from the Dominican Republic gained 14.5 percent to $38.41 million, and imports from Nicaragua advanced 9.7 percent to $125.56 million.
Also operating under preferential trade pacts, imports from Haiti rose 17.1 percent to $61.57 million in value and Peru’s shipments were up 26.5 percent to $65 million.
African countries continued to gain momentum as an alternative sourcing option as the year got started. Imports from Egypt increased 23 percent to $86.13 million worth of goods, Ethiopia’s shipments jumped 162 percent to $14.43 million and Kenya’s rose 31.2 percent to $44.05 million.