We were pleased to join several hundred attendees at the China & Asia Textile Forum in Shanghai earlier this month. This year, the focus was what’s happening in the United States and Europe in terms of policy and politics. USFIA President Julia K. Hughes talked about the impact of the Trump Administration and some areas of concern for 2017. 

One of the hot topics of discussion was the Trump Administration’s decision to shelve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade negotiations. Hughes talked about this issue, as well as the outlook for trade and sourcing in light of these policy developments. You can download her presentation, which includes a preview of our forthcoming sourcing report, here. In addition, Han Bekke, President of the International Apparel Federation (IAF), spoke about the impact of Brexit and the rising nationalism in Europe, as well.

Industry leaders from China and Vietnam also spoke about the trends in sourcing, and what they see as the issues having the biggest impact on the industry. Xi’an Zhang, Vice President of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Textiles & Apparel, spoke about the trends that he sees in the industry, and the Chamber’s own annual report. He highlighted three key trends:

  1. Prices continue to decrease.
  2. More Chinese companies are moving production to Southeast Asia and Africa. He expects that low-priced, basic products will continue to shift to other countries.
  3. Companies are supporting the Made in China 2025 initiative. He summarizes this as a shift from an emphasis on Big in Size, to an emphasis on Strong in Quality.

Nguyen Van Tuan, Deputy Secretary-General of the Vietnam Textile & Apparel Association, and Chairman of the Vietnam Cotton & Spinning Association, talked about activities in Vietnam now that the TPP is no longer imminent. The industry is very interested in the potential for a U.S.-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, especially since President Trump has said that he prefers bilateral arrangements. But in the short term, Vietnam continues to try to attract new investment in fabric manufacturing, because 75 percent of the fabrics used to make apparel still are imported. 

Representatives from brands and retailers also discussed the trends that they see on the horizon, as well as their concerns today. Not surprisingly, there was much discussion about sustainability, and how companies are committed to improving sustainability throughout the supply chain. DyeCo, a company that has pioneered waterless dyeing, explained in detail how their process works with zero discharge. With Nike as one of the company’s investors, DyeCo’s focus has been 100 percent polyester fabrics—and the technology is now available today.

To close, another big trend on everyone’s minds was how technology will change the industry over the next decade. 3D and digital printing are already gaining momentum, and one company predicts that robots will replace workers, especially as labor costs continue to rise. Speed is another area where brands expect to see an acceleration of the timeline—with the goal of 30 days from placing an order to delivery of the garments.