WASHINGTON — Cambodia continued to lose share in the U.S. apparel import market as it posted another month of double-digit declines in July, as overall apparel and textile imports fell, the Commerce Department’s monthly trade report showed Friday.
Overall textile and apparel imports to the U.S. from the world fell 5 percent to 5.6 billion square meter equivalents in July compared with a year earlier. Textile imports declined 6 percent to 3.1 billion SME, while apparel imports fell 2.5 percent to 2.5 billion SME.
Cambodia, although still the seventh largest apparel supplier to the U.S., has been struggling with wage and labor issues over the past several months, and posted a 16.8 percent decline in apparel imports to 70 million SME in July.
Julia Hughes, president at the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, said the group’s most recent sourcing survey did not reflect big declines from Cambodia, which is now showing “precipitous drops” in the government’s trade data.
“What the data may be showing us is that when companies retrench and when they cut back on orders, a country like Cambodia might be one of those where we see larger decreases,” due to worker and political instability, Hughes said.
She said apparel imports from Egypt — a smaller supplier but another country with political instability — were down 34 percent in July.
Pakistan, the 10th largest apparel supplier to the U.S., posted the largest decline in July, a 17.7 percent drop in apparel imports to 45 million SME.
“We still have some companies that have travel bans on their own teams going to Pakistan for security reasons and it is certainly an issue,” she said.
The strongest apparel import gain for the month came from Vietnam, the second largest supplier to the U.S., which registered a 9.2 percent increase to 295 million SME.
Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said Vietnam has invested in infrastructure and productivity is rising, which he expects to continue for the foreseeable future.
Herman said companies will continue to invest in Vietnam regardless of whether a the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is enacted. The TPP deal, involving Vietnam, the U.S. and 10 other countries, has been caught up in the presidential election debate, which has cast a negative light on the pact and on global trade in general.
Congress must approve the trade deal and House and Senate leaders have raised concerns about TPP and indicated they do not plan to bring up the deal for a vote this year.
China, the top apparel and textile import supplier to the U.S., posted a decline in combined imports of 4.1 percent to 2.9 billion SME in July. Herman said China’s share of the U.S. import market continues to erode.
“Vietnam is winning some of that business and Indonesia is also winning some of that business,” Herman said. “People realize they need to diversify and I think that trend is definitely continuing.”
Herman said some other bright spots included apparel imports from Madagascar, which were up 143 percent; imports from Ethiopia, up 134 percent, and imports from Turkey, which were up 17.9 percent.