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Textiles Intelligence

Vietnam: World's second biggest apparel exporter, but for how long?

This editorial examines the factors behind the success of Vietnamese apparel exporters—including significant investment in the industry by investors in other countries.

6th September 2021

Knitting Industry
 |  United Kingdom

Knitted Outerwear, Sports/​Activewear

Report summary

In 2020 Vietnam became the world's second largest apparel exporter for the first time ever—ahead of Bangladesh. Prior to 2020, Bangladesh had been the second largest apparel exporter for five years. Nonetheless, Vietnam's lead over Bangladesh in 2020 was slim, and apparel exports from both countries were dwarfed by those from China. Furthermore, they fell in 2020 although exports from Vietnam fell at only half the pace of those from Bangladesh.

In this editorial, Robin Anson examines the factors behind the success of Vietnamese apparel exporters—including significant investment in the industry by investors in other countries, notably China. But he highlights some warning signs, including supply constraints stemming from factory shutdowns imposed in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, he examines some of the reasons why Bangladesh fell behind Vietnam in its export performance. There are, however, some glimmers of hope—not least the signing of the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (the International Accord).

This will continue the work of the original Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord)which was signed in May 2013 in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Rana Plaza. Furthermore, it represents an improvement because, as its name implies, it is international, and signatories will commit to extending the efforts of the Accord to at least one other country within the first two years. Moreover, it covers general health and safety rather than fire and building safety alone and it will address due diligence in relation to human rights because the question of liability in this respect is a growing concern for businesses as supply chain legislation in the EU and elsewhere is introduced and strengthened.

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‘Editorial: Vietnam now the world's second biggest apparel exporter, ahead of Bangladesh, but for how long?’

9 pages, published in August 2021 

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