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Does Latest US Trade Data Point to China's Fall from Grace?

With over half of 2019 'in the books', the fallout of the China-US trade spat on US apparel imports is starting to surface. Growth in shipment volumes from Vietnam and Bangladesh outpaced that of China in the first six months of the year, but imports from China are still edging up and the country's share of the market is virtually unchanged.

Figures from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) show the volume of US apparel imports from all sources was flat month-on-month in June at 2.28 billion square meter equivalents (SME).

The figures also show a 3.17% rise in volume against the same month last year and 5.8% rise in value terms year-on-year to $6.9 billion.

The trade spat between the US and China is seeing many brands and retailers consider moving their sourcing operations.

In terms of individual supplier countries, eight of the top-ten recorded a year-on-year increase in June, but three of those only experienced marginal growth. The largest rise came from Cambodia at 18.69% over last year to 72 million SME. Bangladesh was the second-highest mover with a 6.4% increase over last year to 176 million SME.

China, the largest supplier of apparel to the US, saw shipments increase 3.58% to 963 million SME. Imports from the country were up 12% on a month-on-month basis from the 855 million SME recorded in May.

Vietnam, the second-largest apparel supplier to the US, saw a flat growth of 0.97% year-on-year to 303 million SME. Pakistan enjoyed a 3.4% rise in shipments to 45 million SME, although it is the smallest of the 10 major apparel suppliers to the US. El Salvador also saw growth in June, rising 1.64% over last year at 68 million SME.

Of the remaining countries, India saw a flat growth of 0.86% at 86 million SME and Indonesia's shipments grew 0.47% to 92 million SME. Imports from Mexico fell 8.27% to 71 million SME, and Honduras also saw a decline in shipments at 0.08% to 89 million SME.

Textile and apparel imports meanwhile only nudged up 0.51 % to 5.72 billion SME year-on-year but rose 2% in value terms to $9.17 billion. US imports of textiles alone, meanwhile, fell 1.18% to 3.4 billion SME in June and dropped 8.1% in value terms to 2.2 billion SME.

While monthly trade data is often volatile, with big swings from one month to the next, a broader view of the year so far shows the value of total US apparel and textile imports was up 4.6% to $53.5 billion in the January to June period, from $51.17 billion in the same period a year ago. Within this, apparel imports grew 5.91 % to $40 billion, while textiles edged up 0.95% to $13.48 billion.

In volume terms, eight of the ten apparel supplier countries booked growth during the first six months of the year, with Vietnam seeing the highest growth of 8.73% to 1.98 billion SME, closely followed by Bangladesh at 8.37% to 1 billion SME. India was just behind on shipment growth of 8.1 % to 637 million SME.

China saw volumes increase 3.06% to 4.9 billion SME, although the value of China's shipments was flat at 0.68% to $11.3 billion.

In contrast, Cambodia booked a 0.92% decline in shipments to 464 million SME, while those from Mexico were down 4.4% to 423 million SME.

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