Made-in-China besieged in Latin America

Peru Image

 

On the very day that I arrived in Lima, Peru’s capital, I heard that people had burnt China-made clothes in the Gamarra market at the end of August. The next day, thousands of people demonstrated on the street, protesting that cheap Chinese clothes had destroyed their jobs.

Gamarra is one of the largest commercial markets in South America, employing tens of thousands of people. Many commodities there are made in China, especially clothes and textiles.

Two days later, I went to this crowded market, where the buildings have floor-to-ceiling windows with colorfully dressed mannequins. One can buy all kinds of commodities at stores on both sides of the street. If you look closely, you can see that most of the goods are made in China.

Jau Kin Siu, chairman of the Sociedad Central de Beneficencia China in Peru told me that there were three reasons for the clothes-burning incident. The clothing industry in Peru has been greatly affected by the Chinese imports. Some clothes traders try to report low prices at the customs and bring down the price of Chinese clothes. And dealers have suffered losses due to smuggling from neighboring countries.

In fact, Peru has strict restrictions on imported Chinese clothes. Although China and Peru have signed a free trade agreement, the clothing industry is excluded from the agreement.

Even so, Peru has felt the pressure from China’s clothing industry in recent years. It is considering starting an anti-dumping investigation into almost all clothing and textile products.

The impact of Chinese clothes on Peru reflects the tensions between China’s rise and global development, especially the development of emerging economies.

Peru’s official data shows that from 2005 to 2012, more than 14,000 clothing and textile factories were closed and over 94,000 people lost their jobs. These  were mostly family workshops and unable to compete with their Chinese counterparts at both national and international levels.

Similar things have happened in other South American countries. Made-in-China goods have been encountering more obstacles when entering the South American market and become the target of anti-dumping investigations.

Over the past decade, the economic relations between China and Latin America have been developing rapidly. Data from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean shows that China invested more than $15 billion in Latin America in 2010, which was twice the amount between 1990 and 2009, and the investment scale is still expanding.

China’s investment undoubtedly injects a powerful impetus into the economic development of Latin America. But the similar nature of made-in-China and made-in-Latin America has resulted in a backlash.

The manufacturing industry in some Latin American countries has been shrinking in recent years, partially due to made-in-China goods squeezing them out of the market. Unless Chinese enterprises open factories there, they will encounter more trade barriers.

Globally, industrial complementarity is one of the main problems that restrain made-in-China goods from going global. The arrival of Chinese goods has had some positive impacts, like bringing down inflation. But if it harms people’s jobs, the reputation of Chinese goods, or even China itself will be affected.

Employment is high on the agenda in every country. Only when Chinese goods are cheap, well-made, and drive local employment can China’s image be improved.

The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily. He is now stationed in Brazil.dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn

‘Made in America’ High Fashion Easy to Find at Fashion Week

Lela+Rose+Backstage

(NEW YORK) — Is “Made in America” clothing making a comeback at New York fashion week? Though designers from around the globe have gathered in the Big Apple to display their spring and summer collections for 2014, many say their clients still get a kick to learn their clothes are made in the U.S.

Though it means higher retail prices, several designers say they produced 100 percent of their collections in the U.S., including Joanna Mastroianni and Honor.

Even large design houses say they produce a majority, if not a large chunk, of their collections in the U.S.

Trina Turk, who presented for the second time at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City on Sunday, says about 40 to 60 percent of the clothing from her women’s label is produced in the U.S.

“There’s a customer segment that enjoys that things are made in the U.S.,” Turk said.

Turk has boutiques across the country and sells her clothing in department stores including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.

The design and production behind her summery “California Roadtrip”-themed collection available this spring took place in her headquarters in Southern California.

Even global jet-setting designer Vivienne Tam, whose clean, structured spring show was an “ode to modern Shanghai,” produces some of her clothing in the U.S.

Michelle Smith’s edgy and modern women’s spring ready-to-wear was presented on Wednesday for her brand, MILLY. Smith says that while retail prices are higher when she produces domestically, she believes better quality is delivered to customers.

“One of the greatest benefits of producing in the US is that I have a better handle on quality control,” she said. “My sampling room is located one floor below my studio in the heart of the Garment District.”

About 80 to 90 percent of MILLY is made in New York City, while the remaining percentage is fully fashioned knitwear, which cannot be produced in the U.S., her company says.

Without knits, it may be easier for designers to tout their American-produced clothing during fashion week’s spring collections than the winter presentations in February.

Lela Rose, whose brilliantly-colored women’s line was presented on Sunday, said knits are the last remaining puzzle of clothing items she does not yet make in the U.S.

She said 95 percent of her collection is produced domestically, and she is starting to develop and produce knits in the U.S.

“We’re not there yet,” Rose said.

But she is on her way, because the benefits outweigh the challenges of producing in the U.S.

Based in New York City, her factories are based within a 10-block radius of her headquarters.

“If they have a question, they send a representative with a sample,” she said. “And we have people constantly monitoring the factories.”

While it may cost less to produce abroad, Rose said overseas lead times “are so much longer than they are here made in [America].”

Many times, operations have ended up becoming more costly due to things lost in translation or having to revise clothing because things haven’t gone right.

Rose said she supports the preservation of New York’s garment district for “very self-serving” purposes. “If we didn’t have these factories, we wouldn’t have trend stores or last-minute things to add to our collection,” she explains.

And, Rose adds, her clients appreciate that her clothing is produced in the U.S.

“Women love that. I think customers are proud to wear things and are happy to spend money on supporting this economy, especially after all these years of seeing manufacturing diminish,” she said.

Lela Rose

Lela Rose

Designers like Nanette Lepore, whose spring presentation attracted hundreds of clamoring fans on Wednesday, have become politically active in lobbying to protect U.S. manufacturing jobs. Lepore has even helped organize rallies in support of New York’s Garment District.

Melissa Hall, who is behind the website TheEmergingDesigner.com, said new designers want to produce in the U.S. for several reasons, such as being close to the design process and control quality.

“Many designers are also keen on helping to stimulate their local economy and provide jobs to factory workers,” she said. “Plus, one consumer trend that is happening right now is their desire to learn about the designer’s back-story to feel a connection with the brand. That’s where Made in America comes in as a marketing vehicle along with being able to communicate the craftsmanship that goes into making their product.”

Emily Saunders of the up-and-coming label SAUNDER said she loves being able to support industry in her hometown of New York City.

“And it’s important to me to have a relationship with the people who help make the clothing for my line – SAUNDER is my baby and it’s nice knowing that my baby is in good hands,” she said.

Marlon Gobel, behind the men’s line Marlon Gobel, is another New York-based designer who takes pride in producing in the U.S. In his recent fashion show, his “We Built This City” collection was inspired by iron workers who built Manhattan in the early 20th century.

“It just makes more sense to make it here. You can control the timing of your product so much better.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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