2015 RETROSPECTIVE: China Stays on Top as U.S. Clothing Factory

People complain that China is getting too expensive to manufacture clothing.

But the apparel powerhouse still accounts for nearly 39 percent of the apparel and textiles that U.S. retailers and manufacturers import from overseas, which is about equal with last year.

China’s exports of textiles and apparel to the United States saw a 1.5 percent increase over last year, meaning that the nation of 1.35 billion people and nearly 20,000 apparel and textile factories sent $43 billion worth of goods to the United States for the 12 months ending Oct. 31.

Coming up a distant second to China is Vietnam, which continues to expand its apparel industry every year. Clothing is the country’s strong point because Vietnam still does limited yarn and fabric production. But that could change because Vietnam is a member of the recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement.

While the free-trade accord may be a few years away from being implemented, Chinese and South Korean investors already are eying the country as a new place to set up yarn and fabric mills.

Vietnam’s export of apparel to the United States grew nearly 12.2 percent this year, with the country responsible for $11 billion of clothing brought into this country during the 12 months ending Oct. 31. That is 10 percent of all U.S. apparel and textile imports.

India is another country that has been pumping up its exports to the United States. It is the third-largest provider of apparel and textiles to the United States. It exported $7.2 billion worth of goods—half of which was apparel—during the 12 months ending Oct. 31, for an 8.3 percent rise over the previous 12 months.

Other major providers of apparel and textiles to the United States are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan.

When it came to exporting clothing, the United States saw business flatten out due mostly to the strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive in other countries.

Exports dipped slightly, to $24 billion during the first 12 months of the year. Canada and Mexico received about half of those clothing and textile exports.