EU clothing imports from China reduced by in volume by 9.9 percent in the first three months of 2016 compared to last year. Due to it number of other countries gained market share the EU clothing import market and its ten largest supplying countries. China’s share of EU clothing imports from all sources declined in both periods, from 43.3% in 2014 to just 35.1% in the first three months of 2016. Average price of EU clothing imports from China also fell by 0.3% while the average prices of imports from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam all rose noticeably.
EU clothing imports from Bangladesh rose by 4.2% in the whole of 2015 and were up by 8.0% in the first three months of 2016 & thus share reached 24.6%. Imports from Cambodia shot up by 12.6% in 2015 and were up by 17.7% in the first three months of 2016. Imports from Pakistan rose by 6.5% in 2015 and were up by 8.4% in first quarter of 2016 & from Vietnam increased by 3.2% in 2015 and were up by 1.6% in early 2016.
This apparent shift in sourcing from China to other countries in Asia reflects the fact that several companies in China have moved, or plan to move, at least some of their clothing production to other countries in order to benefit from abundant supplies of cheaper labour. Many Chinese companies are opting to move to countries in South-East Asia where wages are lower, in Cambodia, for instance, the average wage for garment workers is only a fifth of that in China while in Myanmar the average wage is even lower than that in Cambodia.
As well as the benefit of cheaper labour, a number of exporting countries in South-East Asia—and South Asia—benefit from preferential trade agreements with the EU and the USA, the world’s two biggest import markets, whereas China does not. Manufacturers in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar also benefit from duty-free access to the EU through the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement.