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US foreign trade in textile/apparel stable in 2017 despite underlying tensions

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Published
today Aug 28, 2018
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The USA is waging a war against its trade deficit, causing financial analysts to expect wild fluctuations. In the meantime, the official economic figures for the Trump era’s first year have been published, becoming the new benchmark. In 2017, the USA recorded stable import figures for textile/apparel, worth $121.4 billion (+1%), and footwear, worth $25.6 billion (+0.1%). And at a time when many client countries are threatening reprisals against the US administration’s protectionist leanings, US exports have actually slightly strengthened. The USA in fact exported textile/apparel goods worth $22.08 billion, up 2%, and footwear worth $1.4 billion, a 4.5% rise, according to the International Trade Commission’s official figures published in mid-August.


US textile/apparel exports grew 2% in 2017 - AFP


Europe, which is notably threatening to tax some US textile products as a reprisal against a possible 25% US import duty on European steel and cars, remains the main client for American textile and apparel goods, after the US’s neighbours Canada and Mexico .

Last year, the USA exported to Europe $2.5 billion’s worth of textile and apparel (+0.8%), and $104 million in footwear (+19.2%). On the US imports side, the EU shipped $5.8 billion’s worth of textile/apparel (+3.3%) across the Atlantic, and $2.09 billion in footwear (+2.2%). The ensuing US trade deficit is nevertheless negligible compared to that with China, with whom the USA is engaged in another tough trade tussle.


US imports and exports by industrial sector in 2017 - Usitc.gov


According to official figures, in the 2017 financial year China exported textile/apparel goods to the USA worth $45.02 billion, and $14.2 billion worth of footwear. These figures do not take account of the goods produced by Chinese companies in other Asian countries, and destined to the North American markets. The USA have instead exported $932 million of textile/apparel goods (+4.5%) and $109 million in footwear (+21%) to China.

Now that the USA are questioning the terms of the NAFTA trade agreement, the figures for US imports and exports to and from Canada and Mexico were also eagerly awaited. The latest report indicated that Mexico shipped textile/apparel goods worth $6.1 billion (+5.2%) and footwear for $427 million (+3.5%) across its border with the USA. The latter instead exported to Mexico textile/apparel goods worth $5.5 billion (+2%) and footwear worth $95 million (-1.8%).


Trade flows between the USA and the EU in 2017, by industrial sector - Usitc.gov


These figures resembled closely those traded with Canada, where last year the USA exported $5.2 billion’s worth of textile/apparel goods (+2.7%) and $498 million in footwear (-2.2%). Canada has instead exported $2.2 billion of textile/apparel goods (+2.3 %) and $52 million in footwear (+4.1 %) to the USA.

These figures confirm that US trade flows are relatively stable, and they will become all the more significant once the figures for future financial years will be published. At a time when many experts and industry professionals expect US government policies to exert an increasing influence on the health of foreign trade, these figures may even become one of the key indicators of the White House’s foreign policy.

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