Chinese textile and clothing exports fall with far reaching effects
Chinese textile and clothing exports fell by 7.4% in 2016. As a result, China lost some of its share of world markets, according to the latest issue of Textile Outlook International from the business information company Textiles Intelligence.
The fall in Chinese textile and clothing exports extended to most of the major product categories -- including yarns, fabrics, knitted clothing and woven clothing.
Also, the fall was observed in several major markets. In the EU, sales of Chinese textiles and clothing fell by 5.3%, and in Canada by 7.7%. In the USA they were down by a substantial 10.8% -- to a six–year low -- and in Japan they plunged by 15.4%. As a result of these trends, China lost market share in all four markets.
Rising labour costs and production costs in China are mainly to blame for the fall in exports as production shifts increasingly from China to lower cost countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The impact of falling exports has been felt in many sectors of the Chinese textile and clothing industry. It has also been felt in a number of other Asian countries -- especially those supplying products of higher added value -- as the Chinese industry has relied increasingly on importing raw materials from these countries in recent years in order to fuel the rapid expansion of its textile and clothing exports.
Supplies of textiles and clothing from Japan, for instance, fell by 14.8% in 2016 to their lowest level in over a decade. Supplies from Hong Kong declined by 16.9% while those from South Korea fell by 10.1% and supplies from Taiwan were 9.9% lower.
However, China continues to dominate its major markets and there are no signs that such dominance will come to an end any time soon. In the US market, China accounts for nearly twofifths of textile and clothing imports from all sources in value terms and this share is unlikely to change substantially in the next two to three years.
In fact, production in China continued to grow in 2016 -- at least in the textile industry -- and during January-March 2017 it was up again compared with the corresponding period a year earlier. Man-made fibre production, for instance, was up by 2.9% in 2016 -- although growth appears to be slowing as this rise was well down on the 11.9% hike achieved in 2015.
Furthermore, China stands to make gains if the USA continues to adopt a more isolationist and protectionist stance under President Trump. In particular, the decision of the USA to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement may enable China to fill the vacuum and take a more prominent role in international trade. Some authorities believe that China could even replace the USA as the pre-eminent player in global economic affairs.
China is in the process of negotiating a new economic trade area called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). If this comes to fruition, it will cover all ten nations which are members of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) -- namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Such developments could have a positive impact on a range of Chinese exports, including textiles and clothing, and on the industries in a number of other Asian countries.
Chinese textile and clothing producers are also expected to benefit from strong growth in demand among domestic consumers in the next decade. Such growth will be spurred by continued expansion of disposable incomes per head and migration from rural to urban areas.
Some projections estimate that clothing sales in China could climb to as much as US$300 billion by 2019. By the end of this decade, China could even overtake the USA as the world's largest clothing market.
Textile Outlook International is published six times a year by Textiles Intelligence. Each issue provides an independent and worldwide perspective on the global fibre, textile and apparel industries.
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