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BD's apparel export to US sees 6.65pc growth in 2018

Fails to take full advantage of China’s policy shift

Monira Munni | March 19, 2019 00:00:00

Bangladesh's apparel exports to the United States grew by 6.65 per cent to US$ 5.40 billion in 2018 compared to that of 2017.

The country fetched $ 5.06 billion in 2017, according to data from Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) affiliated with the US Department of Commerce.

Last year, Bangladesh shipped 1.93 billion square metres of apparel than that of 1.85 billion square metres in the previous calendar year.

The US imported a total of $ 5.60 billion of textiles and apparel from Bangladesh during January to December period of 2018, it showed.

On the other hand, Chinese apparel exports grew by 1.34 per cent to $ 27.37 billion in 2018 out of China's total $ 40.58 billion textiles and apparel exports to US.

The OTEXA statistics show that the Chinese apparel exports to USA declined in the recent years.

Meanwhile, the garment exports of Vietnam grew by 5.78 per cent to $ 12.21 billion and India witnessed 3.42 per cent rise to $3.80 billion during the same period.

After the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, Bangladesh's apparel exports to US declined in 2014 and stood at $ 4.83 billion, which was $ 4.95 billion in 2013.

In 2015, exports grew to $ 5.40 billion but continued declining in next two consecutive years.

In 2017, the country earned $ 5.06 billion from garment exports to US, according to the OTEXA.

Experts and exporters said the declining trend Chinese export growth to US showed that both orders and investment might be shifting to other destinations including Bangladesh and Vietnam.

They said Bangladesh might not grab the advantages of the shifting as seized by Vietnam and suggested improving efficiency, productivity and product diversification.

Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said that because of China's recent industrial restructuring policy of shifting to high-tech segment from the lower one and high wages, both orders and investment might be shifting to other destinations like Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Though Bangladesh is taking advantage of shifting orders, the country might not be able to take the advantage of investment, which would be seized by Vietnam and partially by India and Cambodia due to infrastructural bottlenecks in Bangladesh.

Besides, Bangladesh would not also be able to take advantage of shifting the high-value items and non-cotton based orders due to its limited capacity in these segments, he noted.

Terming the trade war between China and US is a short term impact, he said that the issue should not be given much attention though buyers become cautious in placing orders in such a situation.

Mohammad Hatem, vice president of Exporters Association of Bangladesh, attributed the trade war between US and China, and improved workplace safety and workers' rights situation for the rise in apparel exports to US.

"Bangladesh's garment industry is now the safest one in terms of workplace safety and labour rights. These helped regaining buyers' confidence about sourcing from us," he told the FE.

Terming the generalised system of preferences (GSP) 'political', he said that it seems US might not withdraw its GSP suspension unless its 'political agenda' is implemented.

Making a strong urge to reinstate the GSP for the locally made exportable items, he said that the US should consider the issue taking into account the work, in line with the US action plan, that has already been done.

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