Global trade has undergone the most drastic changes since the COVID-19 epidemic, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is working hard to ensure that trade flows resume as soon as possible, especially in the apparel field. A recent study by the Review of World Trade Statistics 2023 and data from the United Nations (UNComtrade) show some interesting trends in international trade, affected by rising geopolitical tensions and changes in trade policy with China, especially is in the field of textiles and clothing.
Foreign research has found that there are four trends in global trade that are obviously different from the past. First, after an unprecedented frenzied buying trend and a sharp 20% increase in 2021, clothing exports declined in 2022. This may be attributed to economic slowdown and high inflation in the major apparel import markets of the United States and Western Europe. In addition, reduced demand for raw materials needed to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) will lead to a 4.2% decline in global textile exports in 2022 to $339 billion. This number is much lower than other industries.
The second scenario is that although China will remain the world’s largest apparel exporter in 2022, as market share continues to decline, other low-cost Asian apparel exporters take over. Bangladesh has overtaken Vietnam to become the world’s second largest apparel exporter. In 2022, China’s market share in global apparel exports fell to 31.7%, the lowest point in recent history, and its market share in the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan has declined. The trade relationship between China and the United States has also become an important factor affecting the global apparel trade market.
The third scenario is that EU countries and the United States are still the countries that dominate the apparel market, accounting for 25.1% of global textile exports in 2022, higher than 24.5% in 2021 and 23.2% in 2020. Last year, U.S. textile exports increased by 5%, the highest increase among the world’s top 10 countries. However, middle-income developing countries are growing steadily, with China, Vietnam, Turkey and India accounting for 56.8% of global textile exports.
With increasing focus on offshore sourcing, especially in Western countries, regional textile and apparel trade models will become more integrated in 2022, becoming the fourth emerging model. Last year, nearly 20.8% of textile imports from these countries came from within the region, an increase from 20.1% last year.
The study found that it is not just Western countries, the “World Trade Statistics Review 2023” has proven that even Asian countries are now beginning to diversify their import sources and gradually reduce their reliance on Chinese products to mitigate supply chain risks, all of which Will lead to better expansion. The after-effects of the pandemic have been fully felt in the fashion industry as unpredictable customer demand in various countries has impacted global commerce and the international textile and apparel industry.
The WTO and other global organizations are recommitting themselves to multilateralism, better transparency and opportunities for global cooperation and reform as other smaller countries join in to compete with the largest countries in trade.