On the morning of July 31, the China Textile Federation and the Lancang-Mekong Textile and Garment Merchants Association from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand jointly launched the first work exchange meeting in 2020 online. This is also the first formal working meeting held by the Lancang-Mekong Textile and Garment Merchants Association since the establishment of the “Lancang-Mekong Textile and Garment Industry Dialogue” working mechanism in October last year. Xu Yingxin, Vice President of the China Textile and Apparel Federation, Executive Director of the China Textile International Capacity Cooperation Enterprise Alliance, and President of the Textile Industry Branch of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Yuan Hongping, Deputy Secretary-General of the China Textile Federation and Director of the Foreign Affairs Office attended the meeting. Vice President of the Textile Industry Branch of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Lin Yunfeng, president and alliance secretary-general, presided over the meeting.
At the meeting, representatives from various countries had a full exchange of views on the operation of the textile and apparel industries in various countries in the first half of 2020, the difficulties encountered by various industries under the impact of the epidemic, and the response measures, and expressed their opinions on the “post-epidemic era” of national associations. An in-depth discussion was conducted on how to make better use of the “Lancang-Mekong Textile and Apparel Industry Dialogue” working mechanism platform to strengthen inter-industry cooperation and promote the coordinated development of the regional industrial chain.
Kaing, deputy secretary-general of the Cambodia Garment Association, first introduced the relevant situation in Cambodia. Under the dual pressure of the COVID-19 epidemic and the cancellation of EBA (European Union Trade Most Favored Nation), the Cambodian textile and apparel industry is facing great difficulties. About 250 companies have suspended or closed since the beginning of the year, and 150,000 employed workers have lost their jobs, mainly female workers. According to a GMAC survey, only 30% of member companies’ orders in the third quarter of this year are expected to be the same as last year, while the rest will decline to varying degrees. Less than 20% of members expect orders to remain flat in the fourth quarter. Due to the cancellation of EBA tariff preferential measures, the export price of Cambodian clothing products to the EU market has increased relatively, and orders from the EU have dropped significantly. In order to save costs, many clothing manufacturers are currently suspending production. The Cambodian government has certain support for relevant enterprises. The enterprises pay workers a minimum wage of US$30 per month and the government subsidizes US$40 to help enterprises withstand the impact of the epidemic.
Eddie, the central executive committee member of the Myanmar Garment Association, and Rosaline, the secretary-general, respectively introduced the situation in Myanmar. Myanmar’s garment industry has experienced a shortage of raw materials due to the epidemic in China from January to February, and a shutdown in March after the epidemic began in Myanmar. After the New Year holiday in April, Myanmar began to resume work and production, but the absenteeism rate among workers increased significantly due to the epidemic and other factors. Judging from export data, Myanmar’s overall clothing exports declined slightly in the first six months. The main reason is that except for the country’s production shutdown in March and April, production was relatively normal at other times. Especially in May and June, neighboring countries transferred some orders to Myanmar due to the epidemic, so Myanmar’s clothing exports increased in these two months. The epidemic has had a greater impact on Myanmar’s economy, and the sharp decline in orders from Europe and the United States has dealt a big blow to the future development of the garment industry. The survey shows that 70% of garment factories are not confident that orders will return to previous levels. At present, many companies are also seeking new development paths, such as switching to production of masks and other epidemic prevention materials.
Laos itself has a small garment industry, and the impact of the epidemic this time is the largest among all countries. Xaybandith, chairman of the Lao Garment Industry Association, said that the Lao garment industry is highly dependent on imports, and the closure of ports due to the epidemic has had a considerable impact on the supply of raw materials to the industry. Affected by the epidemic, imports from Thailand, China, Vietnam and other places are currently relatively smooth, but import inspections are extremely strict. Starting from April, only factories that meet epidemic prevention requirements and have employee dormitories or employees living near the factory can obtain a start-up permit for production. Therefore, the vitality of the entire industry is seriously lacking. Some companies hope to find new exports by converting production of anti-epidemic materials, but due to various reasons such as raw materials and equipment, only three companies have successfully converted. At present, Lao garment companies are generally facing a shortage of orders, and will face greater pressure for future development.
Thailand has a relatively complete textile and clothing industry chain, but the impact of the epidemic on Thailand’s industry cannot be underestimated. Jumnong, chairman of the National Textile Industry Federation of Thailand, said that currently, exports of Thailand’s textile and apparel industry have dropped by 17% year-on-year, and imports have dropped by 19%. Among them, imports from China dropped by 12%, and imports from ASEAN dropped by 16%. Due to insufficient orders, Thai textile and garment companies are currently operating at reduced production, with some factories only operating four days a week. Printing and dyeing companies that were originally operating at full capacity are currently shut down for one day a week. �At the same time, there are also great difficulties in collecting payments for existing orders. However, the epidemic may also be a double-edged sword. Some companies have found new ways to develop antibacterial products and export them to Japan during the crisis, and have achieved good results. Since the beginning of this year, some factories have looked for new opportunities and expanded their production capacity, and more than a dozen new factories have started operation. The ThaiTex project with government support is also actively providing support for the development of the industry.
On behalf of China, Xu Yingxin, vice president of China Textile Federation, introduced the development of China’s textile and apparel industry in the past six months to representatives of other associations. Chairman Xu said that China was the first region affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. China’s textile and apparel industry withstood various pressures and united as one during the outbreak to produce anti-epidemic materials. Through unremitting efforts, it not only meets domestic anti-epidemic needs, but also actively supports overseas epidemic prevention and control work. At present, China’s textile and apparel industry is generally facing the unfavorable situation of declining domestic and foreign demand. From January to June, China’s clothing exports fell by 19.4% year-on-year. Although textile exports increased by 27.8% year-on-year, they mainly relied on masks and other anti-epidemic materials. Since March, the decline in China’s textile and apparel products has gradually narrowed. From January to June, the retail sales of clothing, shoes, hats, and knitted textiles in units above designated size nationwide fell by 19.6% year-on-year, and the decline was 11.3 percentage points narrower than that from January to February. National online retail sales of clothing products fell by 2.9% year-on-year, and the decline narrowed by 15.2 percentage points from January to February. At present, the government has introduced a series of measures to help companies bail out, and the China Textile Federation is also working hard as a bridge between government and enterprises. At the same time, many companies are actively helping themselves by optimizing management, innovating products, and developing new markets and new channels. At present, the development of the global epidemic is still severe and the pressure faced by the industry has not diminished. The China Textile Federation hopes to continue to strengthen cooperation with associations from various countries, unite as one, and work together to ensure the stability of regional supply chains and industrial chains, and provide solid assistance for the revitalization of the global textile and apparel industry.
After exchanging their national situations, various countries began to conduct in-depth discussions on strengthening inter-industry cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong region. Everyone agreed that maintaining close communication and cooperation between industries in various countries is in the interests of all parties. Under the impact of the epidemic, no party can survive alone. Only by strengthening mutual trust and cooperation can we jointly withstand the impact of the epidemic. National associations have jointly agreed to hold regular inter-industry dialogues and maintain the Lancang-Mekong textile and apparel industry dialogue and cooperation mechanism. Everyone also firmly believes that the epidemic will eventually be controlled, and is confident that the global textile and apparel industry will regain its vitality. </p