The ongoing trade tussle between the world’s two largest economies – USA and China, is getting murkier with each passing day! If China has accused the US of launching the ‘largest trade war in economic history’, the US President is in no mood to back down either, keeping true to his presidential campaign of a promise of making trade fairer for the US.
The US administration has reportedly so far imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese products this year, totalling US $ 250 billion worth of goods, with Donald Trump warning sterner action if China retaliates, which China has to a great extent comply with. If Trump goes ahead on his warning, it would virtually mean all of China’s exports to the US would be subjected to duties, apparels included. In terms of figures, even though China improved on its US exports in August (contributed 31.68 per cent of US’ total imports as compared to 30.74 per cent in Jan-Jul period) this year with many in the industry terming it as a one-time development in view of buyers’ so-called cautious sourcing approach ahead of the festive season in USA – the overall repercussions are pretty evident with China’s export share to USA dropping by 1.04 per cent in the January to August period of 2018. China contributed 32.83 per cent in overall apparel import value by USA in the same period last year, which subsequently reduced to 31.68 per cent.
The world’s second-largest apparel exporter globally after China, the tit-for-tat trade battle between the two economic superpowers seems to be opening a new door of opportunity for Bangladesh. As per media reports, the results are already here for everyone to see with US buyers reportedly increasing their order volumes in the country. If experts are to be believed, the increased intensity of the trade war would mean more US orders making their way to Bangladesh from China.
Many garment makers in the country have already started witnessing US orders once placed in China, trickling in and cases in point are some of the renowned names in the Bangladesh RMG sector like Viyellatex Group, and Ha-Meem Group etc.
As per reports, at least three American buyers, who had folded their business in Bangladesh earlier, are now all set to place bulk orders with Viyellatex, which confirmed the same from the Group’s Chairman and Managing Director David Hasanat. Adding to the trade war are the increasing wages in China that have rendered it less feasible for the American buyers, thereby forcing them to head for Bangladesh, experts observed.
Similarly, Ha-Meem Group, which exports 90 per cent of its production to the US, is reportedly expecting higher work orders from the American retailers and buyers.
Another prominent name in Bangladesh apparel sector, Standard Group too is expecting increased orders from the US buyers as a part of business shift from China. “We have already got feelers from our buyers. However, with minimum wage yet to be implemented in our country, orders have not been placed as we (buyers and manufacturers) are waiting for things to settle down first,” observed Hasnat Mosharraf, Director of Standard Group while speaking to Apparel Resources.
Standard Group is one of the renowned names in both knitted and woven apparels in Bangladesh with a customer base ranging from small retailers to large hyper-marts around the globe, especially in North America. It has built a long-lasting partnership with a majority of its customers through impeccable service and consistent quality assurance that includes names like Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, and Sears, etc.
Meanwhile, interacting with the media to express his views on the effects of the ongoing trade war between USA and China, the President of the apex traders’ body BGMEA, reportedly observed that it’s a bit too early to expect any significant order shift.
Perhaps taking a cue from the favourable wave flowing in Bangladesh’s direction, the apparel makers have reportedly put forth a proposal to make garments manufactured from US-grown cotton, duty-free to the US market. The proposal was placed by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) during a farewell programme to felicitate the outgoing US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat.
“We use a lot of US cotton to make garments and a significant part of those are shipped back to the US. If we get duty-free access for garments made of US cotton, I think this will be win-win situation for us, for the US cotton growers and for the US consumers who will get products at a cheaper price,” reportedly maintained BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman, adding, “So, I would request you to kindly discuss this issue with your Government for consideration, and would appreciate a response and your further guidance.”
If accepted, increased order shift from China to Bangladesh is in the offing for sure.