2017 Retrospective: China’s Dominance in U.S. Apparel Imports Is Slowly Declining

Import/Export

As of Friday, December 15, 2017

China’s reign as the apparel powerhouse to the United States continues as sourcing agents find this go-to region a reliable manufacturer of anything related to clothing.

But, for several years, U.S. imports from China have been slipping. It was no different in 2017.

For the year ending through October 2017, apparel companies imported $27 billion worth of clothing from China, which is a 4.6 percent decline from the previous year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Still, China accounted for 33.7 percent of all the apparel brought into the United States. That was before India and Vietnam began to ramp up their clothing factories to compete with lower wages and costs.

The No. 2 favorite for apparel importers was Vietnam, a country that has been increasing its apparel industry as fast as it can train workers. Vietnam was poised to become a big apparel provider to the United States through a free-trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have given Vietnamese-made clothes duty-free status. But after President Trump decided to bow out of the TPP, Vietnam lost that opportunity.

Nevertheless, the United States upped its apparel imports from Vietnam by 6.2 percent for the year ending through October, for a total of $11.4 billion worth of goods. Vietnam now commands 14.3 percent of the U.S. apparel import market.

In the search for low wages, Bangladesh has turned up as the third-largest apparel supplier to U.S. companies.