WASHINGTON — Now it’s Donald Trump’s suits and ties that are under fire. Not those the Republican presidential candidate wears — they’re presumably bespoke — but instead the ones that are part of the Donald J. Trump Collection that was once sold at Macy’s and other retailers before they dropped the line over Trump’s incendiary comments on immigration.
In the down-and-dirty Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Detroit, Trump came under fire for at least a portion of his signature suit and tie collection reportedly being made in Mexico and China as the discussion over Made in America versus sourcing overseas was addressed.
This story first appeared in the March 7, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Trump, who is leading the race for the GOP nomination, has repeatedly blamed Mexico and China on the campaign trail for stealing U.S. jobs and creating a trade deficit with the U.S. He has also said he will slap tariffs on all imports from China if he is elected president.
Some — and possibly all — of his signature Donald J. Trump Collection is made in Mexico and China by licensees, a point that presidential challenger Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) did not miss and which he raised at the debate.
Trump went on the trade warpath out of the gate at the Fox News-sponsored debate, accusing China, Mexico and Japan of beating the U.S. on trade. “Trade is killing our country,” he said. “And every other country we do business with we are getting absolutely crushed on trade.
“Every country we lose money with,” Trump added. “As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got to reduce…we have to redo our trade deals 100 percent. I have the greatest business people in the world lined up to do it. We will make…great trade deals.”
But Rubio, who is battling to stay in a presidential primary race that has roiled the Republican party, called out Trump and pointed to the inconsistency in his rhetoric. He also proudly declared that all of his campaign merchandise for sale on his Web site is Made in America.
“He has spent a career of convincing Americans that he’s something that he’s not in exchange for their money,” Rubio charged. “Now he’s trying to do the same in exchange for their country. This is a fact. He talks about these great businesses that he’s built….He can start tonight by announcing that all the Donald Trump clothing will no longer be made in China and in Mexico but will be made here in the United States.”
Trump has lost at least one licensing deal and a contract with Macy’s Inc., which stopped carrying his signature collection over his inflammatory remarks on the campaign trail. The bad blood between Trump and Macy’s dates back to July when the retailer decided to stop carrying Trump’s merchandise, including his branded men’s wear and fragrance products, in all of its stores after he sparked a national outcry with demeaning comments about Mexican immigrants.
PVH Corp., which signed a licensing agreement in 2004 to make shirts and neckwear for the Trump brand, also said in July that it planned to stop producing the Trump products in the wake of the Macy’s announcement.
At the debate on Thursday night, Fox News Channel anchor Chris Wallace pressed Trump on the issue of outsourcing, asking if he would pledge to move the production of his clothing collection from Mexico and China back to the U.S.
“I will do that,” Trump said. “By the way, I’ve been doing it more and more.”
He went on to argue that China, Mexico and Japan undervalue their currencies, putting U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage because the cost of imports falls as a result.
“They devalue their currencies, and they make it impossible for clothing makers in this country to do clothing in this country,” Trump said. “And if you look at what’s happened on Seventh Avenue, and you look at what’s happened in New York with the garment industry, so much of the clothing now comes out from Vietnam, China and other places. And it’s all because of devaluation.”
Rubio wasn’t buying the arguments. He said, “The reason why he makes it in China or Mexico is because he can make more money on it. That’s why he’s doing it.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.
Championing American-made products is one thing but the number of companies actually producing those products in the U.S. is still small compared with the amount of clothing that U.S. brands and retailers source overseas and import back to the U.S. to sell. Still, the Made in America movement has gained steam in the last few years.
U.S. brands and retailers have been producing their clothing in other countries for decades. The U.S. has a large global trade deficit, which widened to $539.7 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. trade deficit with China in 2015 was $338 billion, while the deficit with Mexico was $57.3 billion and the deficit with Japan was $56.7 billion.
China controls the lion’s share of the U.S. apparel and textiles import market. In the latest data released by the Commerce Department on Friday, combined imports from China rose 9.8 percent to 2.5 billion square meter equivalents. Imports from Vietnam the third largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S. rose 6.3 percent to 362 million SME, while imports from Mexico fell 7.8 percent to 170 million SME.
The Obama administration said in its trade report earlier this week that Made in America is making a comeback, citing an increase in export-related jobs in the U.S. The U.S. has added more than 900,000 manufacturing jobs since rebounding in early 2010, the report said. Manufacturing accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. research and development employees, as well as the “vast majority” of patents issued and the majority of U.S. exports.
According to the report, U.S. jobs supported by exports have risen 18 percent since Obama took office in 2009. Goods and services exports have increased 41 percent, while agricultural exports are up 35 percent. Exports by small and medium businesses rose 52 percent between 2009 and 2013.