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China Rebounds: US Apparel Imports Up in September Following Trade War-Induced Declines

The United States’ apparel imports from China bounced back in September after months of declines amid a tariff war that caused companies to shy away from a country which may have been their chief supplier.

But as brands and retailers gear up for the crucial holiday selling period—and before a threatened 25 percent increase in tariffs by the Trump administration could take effect in the new year—China was back in the mix as a key source of goods.

September apparel imports from China increased 5.99 percent in volume, to 1.35 billion square meter equivalents (SME) compared to a year earlier, and rose the same percentage in value to $3.13 billion, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Vietnam, the second-largest apparel supplier to the U.S., saw its shipments rise 7.87 percent in volume, to 317 million SME year-over-year, and 8.1 percent in value, to $1.11 billion.

The top 10 sourcing countries saw mixed results in September compared to the same month last year. Gainers included Bangladesh, with volume increases of 11.8 percent, to 171 million SME, and 16.5 percent in value to $503.29 million; and India, with hikes of 4.91 percent in volume, to 81 million SME, and 3.8 percent in value to $271.61 million. Those losing ground included Indonesia, dropping 4.8 percent in volume terms, to 92 million SME, and 3.3 percent in value to $370.35 million. U.S. imports from Cambodia were down 5.3 percent in volume and value, to 101 million SME, and $233.47 million, respectively. Pakistan saw a volume decline of 11.09 percent, to 43 million SME, and 8.2 percent in value to $110.2 million.

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Among the three top 10 Western Hemisphere suppliers, imports from Honduras increased 4.3 percent in volume terms to 90 million SME, and 16 percent in value to $240.7 million. El Salvador’s shipments were up 9.6 percent in volume to 65 million SME, and 14.3 percent in value to $172.45 million, while imports from Mexico fell 2.92 percent, to 65 million SMEs in volume, and declined 6.1 percent, to $299.3 million in value.

Other Western Hemisphere countries with notable increases in September were Haiti, with a 15.4 percent rise in value to $76.91 million; the Dominican Republic, up 21.6 percent to $67.97 million; Guatemala, with an increase of 10.1 percent to $113.53 million; and Colombia, up 29.9 percent to $19.19 million.

African nations continued to make strides as a sourcing destination, too. Kenya posted a 30 percent increase in shipments to the U.S., increasing to $44.52 million worth of goods. Ethiopia doubled its shipments to $9.1 million, while apparel imports from Egypt increased 12.5 percent to $71.47 million, and goods from Tanzania were up 20.9 percent to $4.26 million.

OTEXA reported textile and apparel imports from around the world increased 4.7 percent year over year in September, reaching 6.21 billion SME. Textile imports, specifically, were up 4.4 percent to 3.49 million SME, while apparel imports rose 5.1 percent to 2.71 billion SME.

The United States’ international trade deficit in goods and services increased to $54 billion in September from $53.3 billion in August, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This reflected a $600 million increase in the goods deficit, to $77.2 billion, and a $100 million decrease in the services surplus, to $23.2 billion.