Textiles and Apparel

Mary Roop
(202) 208-2277
Mary.Roop@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total textiles and apparel exports: increased by $426 million (2.0 percent) to $22.1 billion
  • U.S. general textiles and apparel imports: increased by $1.2 billion (1.0 percent) to $121.4 billion

Total U.S. exports of textiles and apparel increased in 2017, with growth in all categories except apparel, exports of which fell slightly.[1] Growth in U.S. exports was in part due to an increase in U.S. exports of nonwoven fabrics, particularly higher-value nonwoven fabrics. U.S. total imports of textiles and apparel also rose, reflecting an improving U.S. economy[2] and higher consumer spending on home furnishings and apparel.[3]

U.S. Exports[4]

Total U.S. exports of textiles and apparel increased by $425.7 million (2.0 percent) to $22.1 billion in 2017. Domestic exports accounted for $17.8 billion (80.6 percent) of total exports, while re-exports (foreign exports) accounted for the remaining $4.3 billion (19.4 percent). Domestic exports increased by $208.9 million (1.2 percent) in 2017, while re-exports increased by $216.7 million (5.3 percent). In 2017, a larger portion of U.S. apparel exports were re-exported (47.4 percent of all U.S. apparel exports) as countries continued to use U.S. foreign trade zones (FTZs) as regional distribution hubs for neighboring countries such as Mexico and Canada.[5]

Table TX.1: Textiles and apparel: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
1,350
1,231
964
828
851
22
2.7
    Vietnam
62
96
93
89
102
13
14.5
    Mexico
4,421
4,627
4,520
4,128
4,138
10
0.2
    India
165
171
175
192
161
-31
-16.4
    Canada
3,905
3,952
3,684
3,600
3,705
105
2.9
    Bangladesh
22
21
22
11
14
4
32.3
    Indonesia
177
167
131
95
82
-13
-14.2
    Honduras
1,408
1,541
1,521
1,455
1,496
42
2.9
    Pakistan
40
34
25
21
23
2
8.0
    El Salvador
564
557
492
367
438
71
19.3
    All other
7,587
7,640
7,372
6,796
6,783
-13
-0.2
        Total domestic exports
19,702
20,036
18,998
17,584
17,793
209
1.2
Foreign exports
3,617
3,949
4,275
4,072
4,289
217
5.3
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign)
23,318
23,985
23,272
21,656
22,082
426
2.0
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
46,467
47,219
48,887
45,204
45,029
-175
-0.4
    Vietnam
8,604
9,822
11,151
11,370
12,169
799
7.0
    Mexico
5,830
5,976
5,902
5,804
6,104
300
5.2
    India
6,902
7,384
7,951
7,949
8,200
251
3.2
    Canada
2,323
2,303
2,243
2,181
2,231
50
2.3
    Bangladesh
5,157
5,051
5,658
5,547
5,332
-215
-3.9
    Indonesia
5,455
5,279
5,415
5,143
4,985
-158
-3.1
    Honduras
2,626
2,726
2,812
2,673
2,589
-84
-3.2
    Pakistan
3,222
3,228
3,210
2,901
2,944
43
1.5
    El Salvador
1,895
1,936
1,988
1,985
1,968
-18
-0.9
    All other
29,522
30,764
31,320
29,507
29,873
366
1.2
        Total general imports
118,003
121,688
126,538
120,265
121,423
1,158
1.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Note: Import values are based on customs value; export values are based on free alongside ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The countries 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.

Fabrics made up the largest share of U.S. domestic exports of textiles and apparel in 2017, with these exports totaling $6.0 billion—up $119.4 million (2.0 percent) over 2016. An increase in U.S. domestic exports of nonwoven fabrics of $82.5 million (5.0 percent) contributed to the growth in U.S. fabric exports in 2017.[6] In the previous two years, U.S. exports of nonwoven fabrics fell, in large part due to increased nonwoven fabric production in key U.S. export markets. This was particularly true of China, the United States’ third-largest export market for nonwoven fabrics.[7] The recent uptick in U.S. nonwoven fabric exports to China, which grew by $49.8 million (47.3 percent) to $155.1 million in 2017,[8] is the result of a change in the type and value of nonwoven fabrics shipped to China.[9] U.S. nonwoven fabric exports to China are now more commonly higher-value nonwoven fabrics used in the medical and manufacturing industries, rather than lower-value nonwoven fabrics used for clothing.[10]

U.S. domestic exports (i.e., not including re-exports) of textiles and apparel to Mexico and Canada, the United States' two largest markets for textiles and apparel, increased to $7.8 billion (1.5 percent) in 2017.[11] Exports to Mexico and Canada constituted 44.1 percent of total U.S. domestic exports of textiles and apparel; likewise, U.S. domestic exports of apparel to NAFTA countries trade bloc (Mexico and Canada) accounted for 44.5 percent of all U.S. domestic apparel exports.[12]

Table TX.2: Textiles and apparel: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. domestic exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Miscellaneous textile products (TX006)
3,025
3,118
2,925
2,731
2,874
142
5.2
        Fabrics (TX002)
6,446
6,631
6,350
5,884
6,003
119
2.0
        Home furnishings (TX004)
519
526
515
510
533
23
4.6
        Carpets and rugs (TX003)
1,071
1,060
975
913
933
20
2.1
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Apparel (TX005)
3,440
3,436
3,360
3,096
3,006
-90
-2.9
        Fibers and yarns, except raw cotton and raw wool (TX001)
5,201
5,266
4,873
4,450
4,445
-6
-0.1
    All other
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.0
        Total
19,702
20,036
18,998
17,584
17,793
209
1.2
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Home furnishings (TX004)
10,099
10,372
10,980
10,717
11,296
579
5.4
        Miscellaneous textile products (TX006)
6,920
7,343
7,851
7,846
8,253
407
5.2
        Carpets and rugs (TX003)
2,172
2,454
2,519
2,662
2,769
106
4.0
        Apparel (TX005)
88,241
90,461
93,924
88,485
88,560
76
0.1
        Fibers and yarns, except raw cotton and raw wool (TX001)
3,776
3,860
3,868
3,466
3,518
52
1.5
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Fabrics (TX002)
6,796
7,199
7,396
7,089
7,028
-62
-0.9
    All other
0
0
0
0
0
0
0.0
        Total
118,003
121,688
126,538
120,265
121,423
1,158
1.0

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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. Imports

The value of U.S. imports of textiles and apparel increased by $1.2 billion (1.0 percent) to $121.4 billion in 2017. U.S. imports of textiles and apparel consisted principally of apparel (72.9 percent of total general imports), and U.S. imports of apparel remained relatively flat in 2017 ($75.5 million increase, 0.1 percent).[13] Growth in home furnishings ($579 million increase, 5.4 percent) and miscellaneous textile products ($407 million increase, 5.2 percent)[14] saw the largest absolute value increases in 2017, accounting for a large majority of the total increase in U.S. imports of textiles and apparel in 2017.[15] The increase in U.S. imports of home furnishings correlated with an increase in consumer demand and a stronger U.S. housing market.[16]

China is the United States’ largest supplier of textiles and apparel, accounting for 37.0 percent of total U.S. imports. Imports of textiles and apparel from China totaled $45.0 billion in 2017 (down 0.4 percent over 2016), with apparel accounting for over two-thirds of the total.[17] China’s share of the U.S. textile and apparel market has slowly eroded over recent years (from 38.6 percent in 2015 and 37.6 percent in 2016)[18] as many firms find other places to source their apparel, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh.[19] However, some U.S. retailers and apparel brands still choose to source from China and plan to maintain significant production there because of China’s large manufacturing capacity and supply chain efficiency.[20] Moreover, despite rising labor costs, Chinese manufacturers have been able to keep the unit cost for their apparel competitive with that from other key U.S. suppliers in the region: for example, it is slightly lower than in Vietnam, and only slightly higher than in Bangladesh. Nonetheless, the value of U.S. apparel imports from China fell by 5 percent in 2017.[21]

Vietnam was the second-largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the United States in 2017. U.S. imports from Vietnam totaled $12.2 billion, of which nearly 96.6 percent were apparel imports. In recent years, Vietnam has grown steadily more important as a supplier of textiles and apparel to the United States. The value of U.S. imports from Vietnam increased by 2.3 percent in 2016 and 7.0 percent in 2017, with Vietnam’s share of U.S. apparel imports likewise increasing from 12.4 percent in 2016 to 13.3 percent in 2017. Vietnam continues to invest in manufacturing technology that boosts productivity and shortens lead times in order to fully take advantage of the already decreased costs associated with its free trade agreements; this new production capacity may have contributed to the increase of apparel imports from Vietnam to the United States.[22]

Imports from India and Mexico, the United States’ third- and fourth-largest suppliers of textiles and apparel, grew in 2017 by 3.2 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. Apparel imports made up the largest subgroup of U.S. textile and apparel imports from India in 2017, rising at a rate of 1.2 percent. Home furnishings, the United States’ second-largest import category from India, grew to $2.4 billion (5.4 percent). The United States imported $6.1 billion of textiles and apparel from Mexico in 2017, of which 63.1 percent was apparel. Growth in U.S. imports of apparel from Mexico is largely due to the country’s speed-to-market advantage, which many retailers are prioritizing in their sourcing considerations.[23] U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from fifth-ranked supplier Bangladesh fell for the second year, falling by 2.0 percent in 2016 and 3.9 percent in 2017. Apparel constituted 95.3 percent of all textile and apparel imports from Bangladesh in 2017. The decline in imports from Bangladesh reflects the efforts of U.S. apparel retailers to diversify their sourcing bases in order to avoid risk associated with social and environmental compliance issues in Bangladesh[24] and the country’s declining competitive advantage as a low-cost producer.[25]

 


[1] The textiles and apparel sector is divided into six categories: fibers and yarns, except raw cotton and raw wool (TX001); fabrics (TX002); carpets and rugs (TX003); home furnishings (TX004); apparel (TX005); and miscellaneous textile products (TX006). Total U.S. exports of apparel fell by $24.1 million, or 0.4 percent. USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for the apparel commodity group TX005; accessed April 24, 2016).

[2] Lu, “Four Key Patterns in US Apparel Imports,” March 1, 2018.

[3] For example, personal consumption expenditures on household linens and window coverings increased by 4.0 and 7.7 percent, respectively, in 2017, while apparel expenditures increased 1.9 percent.  The overall cost per square meter equivalent of textiles and apparel fell slightly in 2017 by 4 cents (2 percent) to $1.63. USDOC, ITA, OTEXA, Major Shippers Report, February 2018; USDOC, BEA, “Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product,” table 2.4.5U (accessed March 28, 2018).

[4] As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.

[5] For additional information, see USITC, “Textiles and Apparel,” 2015.

[6] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest TX002F; accessed June 26, 2018).

[7] U.S. industry official, telephone interview by USITC staff, April 22, 2016; Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, North American Nonwovens Supply Report 2016, March 2017, 30.

[8] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed April 23, 2018).

[9] U.S. exports of nonwoven fabrics are categorized in HTS heading 5603. USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed April 23, 2018).

[10] U.S. industry official, telephone interview by USITC staff, April 18, 2018. 

[11] In 2017, the U.S. dollar depreciated 6.5 percent against the Mexican peso and 6.9 percent against the Canadian dollar. The depreciation of the U.S. dollar relative to these foreign currencies in major export markets made U.S. textiles less expensive than those of other foreign suppliers. Calculated by USITC based on IMF, “Exchange Rate Archives by Month,” January 2017 and January 2018.

[12] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest TX005; accessed April 23, 2018).

[13] Despite the decline in the value of total U.S. imports of apparel, personal spending on garments in the United States increased to $315 billion (2 percent) in 2017. USDOC, BEA, “Personal Consumption Expenditures by Type of Product,” table 2.4.5U (accessed March 28, 2018).

[14] Miscellaneous textile products include a variety of different goods; however, most fall under the categories of home textiles (such as bed and kitchen linens) and medical textiles (such as surgical drapes).

[15] Home furnishings and miscellaneous textile products fall under USITC digest commodity groups TX004 and TX006, respectively.

[16] Cotton Incorporated, “Reviving Consumer Demand for Home Textiles” (accessed April 26, 2018); Jethava, “Home Textiles: The Growing Market” (accessed April 26, 2018).

[17] U.S. imports of apparel accounted for 68.5 percent of all textiles and apparel imports from China in 2017. USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed April 30, 2018); Lu, 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, July, 2017, 16–20.

[18] China’s share of the U.S. apparel market, in particular, fell from 35 percent in 2016 to 34 percent in 2017 (a drop in value of 3 percent). Lu, “Four Key Patterns in US Apparel Imports,” March 1, 2018.

[19] Lu, 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, July 2017, 9–10.

[20] Russell, “Vietnam Leads US Apparel Import Growth,” February 8, 2018; Lu, 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, July 2017, 16–20.

[21] Lu, “Four Key Patterns in US Apparel Imports,” March 1, 2018; USDOC, ITA, OTEXA, Major Shippers Report, February 2018.

[22] Vietnam has bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with many countries across the Asia-Pacific region, including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Chile, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The country completed negotiations with the EU concerning the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in February 2016; the agreement is expected to enter into force in 2018. USTR, “Vietnam” (accessed May 10, 2018). Russell, ”Vietnam Eyes $200bn Garment,” May 29, 2018.

[23] Lu, 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, July 2017, 9–10.

[24] Lu, 2017 U.S. Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, July 2017, 6–10.

[25] In January 2017 Bangladesh raised the minimum wage for apparel workers by 77 percent. Donaldson, “With China No Longer Cheap,” April 13, 2017.

 

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