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Protectionism could disrupt international clothing trade, warns trade body

Geopolitical tensions, polarisation and populism in a growing number of countries could disrupt the international clothing trade, said the president of the International Apparel Federation (IAF) at an event in Shanghai yesterday.

“This could easily lead to protectionism and import duties, which would not only affect the world exports in clothing (worth approximately $450bn or £370bn), but also the position of many companies and workers worldwide,” said IAF president Han Bekke.

”The Trans Pacific Partnership deal (TPP) was blown up by the US president, TTIP (EU-US) is in the freezer, NAFTA (US-Canada-Mexico) might be renegotiated, CETA (EU-Canada) was signed but not after strong opposition at the end and we can only guess about the final effects of the Brexit,” he said during his opening speech at the China-Asia Textile Forum 2017.

He said brands and retailers may start to change their sourcing as a result, in anticipation of higher import duties that may never come. “In this way uncertainty will equal waste of resources,” he added.

He said the current pressure on margins could spell a race to the bottom or a movement from focus on price to a focus on quality, value for money, sustainability and speed to market.

“This could make local manufacturing or reshoring based on new technology (such as robots or 3D) attractive,” he said.

IAF is analysing a number of reshoring initiatives that are currently underway, including Re-shoring USA, Made in Germany 4.0, Industrie du Futur in France, La Fabricca del Futuro in Italy, Denim City Amsterdam in the Netherlands and NY Fashion Campus in the US.




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