WASHINGTON — Vietnam is taking the shirt off China’s back.

This story first appeared in the July 13, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As textile and apparel imports to the U.S. rose 2.4 percent to 4.6 billion square meter equivalents in May compared with a year earlier, apparel production continued to shift away from China and into other Asian countries, led by Vietnam, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Tuesday.

Apparel imports from Vietnam, now the number-two supplier to the U.S., increased 21 percent to 171 million SME in May, while textile shipments leapt 51.8 percent to 110 million SME. Combined apparel and textile shipments from China, which controls a 46.8 percent share of the U.S. apparel import market, were up just 0.35 percent to 2.1 billion SME, as a 1.9 percent increase in textile imports offset a 2.6 percent decline in apparel shipments.

Elsewhere in Asia, countries picking up apparel production were Cambodia, which saw imports in the category rise 33.6 percent to 78 million SME; Indonesia, which increased shipments 22.4 percent to 111 million SME, and Bangladesh, with a 15.2 percent rise to 138 million SME.

“I think retailers are looking for a variety of options, not just Vietnam, but also Bangladesh and Indonesia, and if the economics make Cambodia an attractive option, retailers will probably take advantage of it,” said Erik Autor, vice president and international trade counsel at the National Retail Federation.

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