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Recap: China and Asia Textile Forum 2018

Earlier this month, USFIA President Julia K. Hughes participated in the 6th China and Asia Textile Forum in Shanghai, alongside Chinese government agencies, industry associations, international textile and apparel enterprises, textile manufacturers, and leading apparel retailers, including several USFIA members. Organized by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel, the event focused on our rapidly changing industry. 

On the opening day, USFIA’s presentation focused on the topic that everyone wanted to talk about—U.S. trade policy under the Trump Administration. In advance of the announcement of retaliatory tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, Hughes warned the attendees that we are at the beginning of a difficult time for global traders. Sharing with the audience some of the key findings from last year’s USFIA Fashion Industry Benchmarking Study, she highlighted the impact of the U.S. government on the fashion industry, particularly reflecting the fact that the top business concern for companies was the protectionist trade policy agenda. This makes sense, when you consider that 8 out of 10 of the top sourcing destinations are located in Asia; in the last year, China has remained the top apparel supplier, with Vietnam a rising star at #2. As global uncertainty is on the rise, companies are rightly worried about the impact of anti-trade policy on their supply chains.

During the two-day Forum, other speakers shared their opinions on the new developments in the industry: new opportunities and challenges facing China’s textile industry, the digital supply chain, changes in China’s procurement market, and the new technology challenges and industrial upgrading of textile and apparel production. Han Bekke, President of the International Apparel Federation (IAF), opened the event with a reminder of the need for smarter, stronger, and more sustainable supply chains by way of international collaboration. Meanwhile, Jiachang Cao, China Chairman of Commerce of Import and Export of Textile and Apparel (CCCT), emphasized three significant factors in the progress of China’s apparel supply chain: the rise of smart apparel factories, China’s investment in neighboring apparel industries, and the increase in apparel imports in China, too, as the domestic market develops rapidly.  (Stay tuned for USFIA’s 2018 Sourcing Report, being released next week, for some of the key statistics.)

Justin Huang, President of USFIA International Affiliate Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF) reiterated CAO’s points by emphasizing that the power of the Chinese textile and apparel industry stems from its people. In addition, Orient International (Holding) Co., Ltd President Yong Zhu, spoke about what it takes to build a global textile industry chain and how powerful globalization can truly be. 

Kutluhan Samataci, Executive Vice President of Li & Fung, discussed how Li & Fung is creating the supply chain of the future to help customers navigate the digital supply economy. With a digital platform at the core, the company aims to reduce speed to market by 50%+. He covered China’s changing role in the world textile & apparel sourcing market with an emphasis on the importance of China as a textile supplier for apparel-exporting countries in Asia.

Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel, presented the digitalization of the textile and apparel supply chain. He made note of three supply chains: physical, financial, and data. It was noted that the physical is deflationary while the financial is free, and the data is the most valuable. Challenges arise with the role of regression and the role of expert systems as decision tools. Opportunities are presented with the use of data, the Cloud, real time information sharing, total information transparency and data analytics.

Global apparel brands and supply chain managers touched base on the development of global fashion industry and consumer insights, the best practices for international sourcing, the challenges today of hazardous chemicals control of apparel products, and what the future holds in terms of a green supply chain. Closing out, Sustainability Consortium Executive Secretary General Weidong Zhou highlighted the path to a bright future for the global textile and apparel industry and discussed the benefits of a green supply chain. Stanley Kee, Managing Director for APAC at The NPD Group, Inc., summed up the trends and prospects in the developing apparel market across Asia-Pacific region. 

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