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China’s Slide as US Apparel Supplier Continues as Overall Imports Drop in November

The move to diversify away from China as a supplier of apparel to the U.S. continued in November, with Asian neighbors gaining ground, according to belated year-to-date data released Wednesday by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

The report, delayed nearly a month due to the federal government shutdown, showed U.S. companies imported $25.44 billion worth of apparel from China in the January to November period, representing a 0.91 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. The trend is likely to continue at least until a final resolution in the trade war between the U.S. and China, with a March 1 deadline looming to avoid a threatened 25 percent tariffs on goods expected to include apparel and footwear.

During the same time, apparel shipments from Vietnam—the No. 2 supplier to theU.S.—rose 5.83 percent to $11.37 billion, while Cambodia posted the largest increase, gaining 12.37 percent to $2.24 billion, OTEXA reported. Others on the rise were Bangladesh, with a 6 percent hike to $5.01 billion in goods imported, while Pakistan shipped 5.93 percent more to reach $1.26 billion, and India’s shipments rose 2.8 percent to $3.57 billion.

Among the Top 10 suppliers in the Western Hemisphere, imports from Honduras were up 1.83 percent to $2.34 billion, while Mexico’s shipments fell 5.33 percent to $3.13 billion and imports from El Salvador dipped 0.64 percent to $1.75 billion.

The trade impasse between the U.S. and China had an impact on overall apparel imports in November. As companies rushed to get goods into the U.S. ahead of what was originally a Dec. 1 threat of new tariff impositions from the Trump administration, shipments had surged in September and October. In November, imports of apparel were down 2.7 percent to 2.02 million square meter equivalents (SME) compared to the same month a year earlier. This included declines from every major supplier except China, which ticked up 0.1 percent, OTEXA data showed.

For the year to date, apparel imports were up 2.2 percent to 25.75 SME, and increased 2.9 percent in value to $76.83 billion.

The U.S. trade deficit decreased in November 2018 to $49.3 billion from a revised $55.7 billion in October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The goods deficit fell $6.7 billion in November to $71.6 billion.