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Textiles and Apparel

Author: Kimberlie Freund
Senior International Trade Analyst

Change in 2015 from 2014:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Decreased by $769 million (3.2 percent) to $23.2 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $4.9 billion (4.0 percent) to $126.6 billion

U.S. total exports of textiles and apparel decreased in 2015, driven by a drop in domestic exports (by $1.1 billion or 5.4 percent) (table TX.1). The decline in U.S. domestic exports is largely attributable to the appreciation of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis other currencies,1 making U.S. exports relatively more expensive in foreign markets, as well as increased production capacity in China for certain products that compete with U.S. exports. The $4.9 billion increase in U.S. imports of textiles and apparel was driven in large part by increased imports of apparel, spurred by growth in consumer demand for apparel (table TX.2).

Table TX.1: Textiles and apparel: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:              
    China 1,242 1,238 1,350 1,231 964 -267 -21.7
    Vietnam 43 67 62 96 93 -3 -2.9
    Mexico 4,065 4,163 4,421 4,628 4,519 -109 -2.3
    India 162 167 165 171 174 3 1.9
    Canada 3,710 3,917 3,905 3,952 3,652 -300 -7.6
    Bangladesh 20 28 22 21 22 1 5.4
    Indonesia 132 141 177 167 131 -36 -21.5
    Honduras 1,850 1,465 1,408 1,541 1,520 -21 -1.4
    Pakistan 40 32 40 34 25 -9 -25.9
    Cambodia 6 7 8 7 9 2 36.3
    All other 8,206 8,017 8,144 8,190 7,852 -337 -4.1
        Total domestic exports 19,475 19,241 19,703 20,036 18,962 -1,075 -5.4
Foreign exports 2,897 3,213 3,618 3,952 4,257 305 7.7
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign) 22,372 22,454 23,321 23,988 23,218 -769 -3.2
U.S. general imports:              
    China 44,884 45,061 46,469 47,220 48,910 1,690 3.6
    Vietnam 7,088 7,519 8,607 9,821 11,149 1,328 13.5
    Mexico 5,881 5,784 5,830 5,974 5,899 -74 -1.2
    India 6,468 6,420 6,902 7,384 7,953 569 7.7
    Canada 2,321 2,414 2,323 2,302 2,243 -60 -2.6
    Bangladesh 4,725 4,675 5,158 5,054 5,654 600 11.9
    Indonesia 5,567 5,421 5,457 5,284 5,416 132 2.5
    Honduras 2,727 2,698 2,625 2,726 2,812 86 3.2
    Pakistan 3,509 3,167 3,222 3,228 3,209 -19 -0.6
    Cambodia 2,626 2,577 2,608 2,534 2,539 5 0.2
    All other 28,052 28,124 28,809 30,162 30,785 622 2.1
        Total general imports 113,848 113,860 118,012 121,689 126,569 4,880 4.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs).

Table TX.2: Textiles and apparel: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
strong>Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. domestic exports:              
    Decreases:              
        Fibers and yarns, except raw cotton and raw wool (TX001) 5,622 5,057 5,201 5,266 4,872 -394 -7.5
        Fabrics (TX002) 6,303 6,350 6,446 6,631 6,347 -285 -4.3
        Miscellaneous textile products (TX006) 2,740 2,807 3,025 3,117 2,920 -197 -6.3
        Apparel (TX005) 3,348 3,470 3,440 3,436 3,338 -98 -2.9
        Carpets and rugs (TX003) 1,027 1,057 1,071 1,060 974 -86 -8.1
        Home furnishings (TX004) 436 500 519 526 511 -15 -2.8
    All other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0
        Total 19,475 19,241 19,703 20,036 18,962 -1,075 -5.4
U.S. general imports:              
    Increases:              
        Apparel (TX005) 85,797 85,226 88,250 90,464 93,927 3,463 3.8
        Home furnishings (TX004) 9,250 9,294 10,099 10,373 10,984 612 5.9
        Miscellaneous textile products (TX006) 6,628 6,850 6,920 7,341 7,862 522 7.1
        Fabrics (TX002) 6,255 6,593 6,796 7,198 7,405 207 2.9
        Carpets and rugs (TX003) 1,919 2,042 2,172 2,454 2,521 67 2.7
        Fibers and yarns, except raw cotton and raw wool (TX001) 3,998 3,854 3,776 3,860 3,869 9 0.2
    All other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0
        Total 113,848 113,860 118,012 121,689 126,569 4,880 4.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

 

U.S. Exports2

U.S. total exports of textiles and apparel declined by 3.2 percent ($769 million) to $23.2 billion in 2015. Domestic exports accounted for 81.7 percent ($19.0 billion) of total exports, with foreign exports (re-exports) accounting for the remainder (18.3 percent). For apparel, a larger share of total exports are re-exported (45 percent), as apparel companies are increasingly using U.S. foreign trade zones (FTZs) as distribution centers for Canada and Mexico.3

Despite a slight increase of 2.3 percent ($305 million) in re-exports of textiles and apparel in 2015, domestic exports decreased by 5.4 percent ($1.1 billion), with declines occurring in most product groups, particularly the two groups accounting for the largest share of domestic exports (fabrics, followed by yarns and fibers).

Fibers, yarns, and fabrics  are intermediate products used in the production of apparel and a myriad of other applications, including, for example, home furnishings, auto interiors, medical products, and industrial products.4 U.S. domestic exports of these intermediate products decreased by $679 million (5.7 percent).5 The decline was led by a 26 percent ($275 million) fall in exports to China.6 For a few key products, China's own domestic supply has increased and likely supplanted demand for U.S. exports. For example, a large part of the decline in U.S. exports to China was accounted for by a $185 million decline in U.S. exports of artificial filament tow, which is used in the production of cigarette filters.7 Chinese demand for U.S. artificial filament tow reportedly has dropped as China's domestic supply has increased.8 In addition, China instituted a new consumer tax on cigarettes in 2015 that also reportedly dampened demand for both cigarettes and the artificial filament tow used to make them.9 Similarly, in 2015, U.S. exports of nonwoven fabrics to China declined by 30.2 percent ($52 million) and to Japan by 40.4 percent ($27 million). These declines are also likely attributed to increased production of such products in China for both the Chinese market, and for China's exports to Japan.10

Mexico and Canada continued to be the largest U.S. markets for textiles and apparel in 2015, accounting for 37 percent ($8.1 billion) of U.S. domestic exports. Although exports to both countries declined in 2015, the share of U.S. exports going to these countries remained steady at 43 percent of the world total.

U.S. Imports

U.S. imports of textiles and apparel increased by 4 percent ($4.9 billion) in 2015 to $126.6 billion. U.S. imports of textiles and apparel have chiefly consisted of apparel for decades; apparel accounted for 74.2 percent of total U.S. textile and apparel imports in 2015. The increase in U.S. textile and apparel imports is largely due to growth in consumer spending on apparel; imports supply almost all the domestic apparel market.11 The value of U.S. apparel retail sales grew by 2.1 percent and accounted for an increase of $24.1 billion in consumer spending on garments in 2015.12

China is the principal supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S. market. In 2015, U.S. general imports of textiles and apparel from China totaled $48.9 billion, up 3.6 percent from 2015, following a smaller increase (1.6 percent) in 2014. China's share of the U.S. textiles and apparel import market remained almost identical in 2014–15 (38.6 percent in 2015 compared with 38.8 percent in 2014). Industry sources indicated that U.S. firms continue to rely on China for their apparel needs, though many brands and retailers are also diversifying their sourcing by expanding the number of countries from which they source products.13

Vietnam is the second-largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S. market, nearly all of these imports consisted of apparel (96.3 percent). U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from Vietnam were up substantially, rising by 13.5 percent ($1.3 billion) to $11.1 billion in 2015. Vietnam has a competitive, export-oriented apparel manufacturing industry. U.S. imports of apparel from Vietnam have experienced several years of double-digit growth as U.S. brands and retailers have been building relationships with manufacturers in Vietnam in anticipation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.14

U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from Bangladesh and India also continued to grow. In particular, U.S. imports of textile and apparel from Bangladesh saw the second-largest percentage increase after Vietnam, growing by 11.9 percent ($600 million) to $5.7 billion. Similar to Vietnam, apparel accounts for 96 percent of the value of U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from Bangladesh, a low-cost producer.15 According to a fashion industry benchmarking survey, Bangladesh is considered one of the top five global sources by brands and retailers for apparel.16 U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from India, the third-largest U.S. supplier of textiles and apparel, grew by 7.7 percent ($569 million) to $8.0 billion in 2015.

 


1 For example, for Mexico and Canada, the two largest U.S. export markets for textiles and apparel, the value of the U.S. dollar appreciated by about 21 percent relative to the Mexican peso and by 19 percent relative to the Canadian dollar from July 31, 2014, to July 31, 2015. Calculated by USITC staff based on IMF, “Exchange Rate Archives by Month,” July 2014 and July 2015.
2 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
3 For additional information, see USITC, “Textiles and Apparel,” 2015.
4 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for commodity groups TX001-TX002; accessed March 8, 2016).
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 U.S. industry official, email message to USITC staff, April 21, 2016; USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed April 21, 2016).
8 U.S. industry official, email message to USITC staff, April 21, 2016.
9 U.S. industry official, email message to USITC staff, April 21, 2016.
10 U.S. industry official, telephone interview by USITC staff, April 22, 2016; USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed April 21, 2016); GTIS, Global Trade Atlas database (accessed April 27, 2016). Japan's imports of nonwoven fabrics from China increased by 22.6 percent or $53.5 million during 2014–15.
11 Imports supplied 97.3 percent of U.S. consumer demand for apparel in terms of quantity in 2014. AAFA, “ApparelStats 2015,” January 2016, 5.
12 USDOC, BEA, Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product, table 2.4.5U (accessed March 17, 2016).
13 Lu, “2015 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study,” June 2015, 3.
14 Industry representatives, interview by USITC staff, Washington, DC, December 11, 2016.
15 The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is $68 per month, compared with $128 per month in Vietnam. Russell, “Bangladesh Confronts Challenges to Garment Export Growth,” October 23, 2015.
16 Lu, “2015 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study,” June 2015, 3.