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Outpaced by Rivals, August Apparel Imports from China Inched Up Ahead of Tariffs

In August–the month before 10 percent tariffs were imposed on apparel imports from China–U.S. companies brought in 0.5 percent more goods than a year earlier from the Asian powerhouse for a value of $3.08 billion, but a shake-up in sourcing strategy has already taken place.

For the first eight months of the year, apparel imports from China were up 1.99 percent year to year to $343 million, paling in comparison to more substantial increases for many of its Asian neighbors, according to new data released Friday from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). There have also been consistent gains from some Western Hemisphere and African countries, as global sourcing diversifies.

Among the Top 10 suppliers, Asian manufacturing giants Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and Pakistan have all notched substantial gains this year. Apparel imports from Vietnam were up 12.14 percent in year-to-date comparisons through August to a value of $981 million, while Bangladesh’s shipments rose 11.81 percent to $431 million in the period, according to OTEXA.

Imports from India increased 8.19 percent in the period to $223 million, Cambodia’s shipments were up 8.58 percent to $137 million and Pakistan’s gained 8.56 percent to $77 million.

Apparel imports from the Western Hemisphere rose 3.48 percent in the first eight months of 2019 to reach a value of $9.64 billion, as companies look for closer-to-market, and tariff-proof, alternatives.

Leading the way was Top 10 supplier Honduras, which saw a gain of 11.91 percent to $195 million worth of goods imported into the U.S. Other key suppliers from the region were Nicaragua, with shipments up 12.7 percent to $1.17 billion in the period; Haiti, increasing 16.09 percent to $682.29 million, and Peru, rising 7.76 percent to $460.64 million.

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Among African nations, significant gainers were Egypt, with imports rising 17.72 percent to $656.85 million; Kenya, up 23.69 percent to $308.28 million; Madagascar, advancing 24.48 percent to $159.88 million, and Ethiopia, up 90.98 percent to $129.98 million.

Imports from the world increased 5.76 percent to a value of $57.31 billion for the year to date though August. In the month, apparel imports rose just 0.15 percent compared to July, as imports patterns have been disrupted by companies looking to get goods in ahead of anticipated tariffs as trade wars simmer on multiple fronts.

The increase reflected a gain in the goods deficit of $800 million to $74.4 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of less than $100 million to $19.5 billion. The largest trade deficits were recorded with China of $28.9 billion and the European Union of $15.6 billion.