WASHINGTON — Bangladesh posted another double-digit increase in apparel and textile imports to the U.S. in November and again led the pack of top 10 apparel and textiles suppliers, the Commerce Department’s monthly trade report showed Wednesday.
Bangladesh led year-over-year apparel and textile import increases among the top 10 suppliers in September, October and November. It also led the pack in apparel and textile imports on a year-to-date basis through November, with a 16 percent increase.
Overall apparel and textile imports to the U.S. from the world increased 5.4 percent to 4.8 billion SME in November from a year earlier. Apparel imports rose 8.5 percent to 1.9 billion SME, while textile imports were up 3.3 percent to 2.8 billion SME.
“Half of the top 10 apparel suppliers — Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Honduras and India — have double-digit increases. That’s pretty substantial,” said Julia Hughes, president of the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, who noted the increase in imports largely reflects late holiday shipments.
Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said companies had “high expectations” for holiday that benefited nearly all of the top 10 apparel suppliers to the U.S.
Apparel and textile imports from Bangladesh rose 18.1 percent to 129 million SME in November, compared with a year earlier, led by a 16.9 percent rise in apparel shipments.
Bangladesh has been beset by some violence in recent months and has also been undergoing safety and labor reforms in the wake of industrial tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 workers. Despite the turmoil, apparel imports from the country have been on the rise.
“Clearly, Bangladesh has really rebounded from 2014 when we saw a lot of uncertainty and the loss of some market share,” Hughes said. “Bangladesh was back and strong in 2015.”
Security concerns related to warnings issued by the U.S. State Department in early October of violence and threats against foreigners could still impact imports from Bangladesh and industry officials are keeping a close eye on the situation there. The AAFA was forced to postpone its international and worker safety conference in the capital of Dhaka, slated for early December, over the concerns.
Herman said the group has tentatively rescheduled the conference for the fall. He noted that while the concerns are still there and the State Department has not rescinded its warnings, he has not heard that his member companies are removing or reducing business there.
Hughes also said there does not appear to be any new incidents in the past month, although companies are not yet allowing their sourcing executives and compliance teams to travel to Bangladesh.
“I haven’t heard anyone talking about major shifts in their sourcing in Bangladesh,” Hughes said.
Indonesia posted the largest increase among top 10 apparel suppliers, with imports increasing 20 percent to 96 million SME. The only country in the top 10 that posted a decline in apparel imports to the U.S. was Cambodia, which registered an 18.4 percent decrease.
“Cambodia may have been hit by uncertainty and some labor disputes [earlier in the year], which may have made companies nervous about relying on them for holiday shipments,” Hughes said.
China, the largest apparel and textile supplier to the U.S., posted a 2.1 percent gain to 2.3 billion SME in November, with apparel shipments up 5.7 percent. Vietnam, the second-largest supplier, registered a 15 percent combined rise to 346 million SME.
“That is really healthy growth for China,” Hughes said. “They are definitely maintaining their share of the U.S. apparel import market at 42 percent.”
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in November to $60.5 billion from $61.3 billion in October, led by weaker imports in many categories — consumer goods, capital goods and industrial supplies, according to Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at Global Insight.