ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai textiles rebound
Thailand, once the region's leading textile and garment exporter, is resurging.
"The Thai textile industry is picking up, as China cannot serve the needs in the global market as it focuses on domestic demand and higher value-added products," said Pongsak Assakul, the president of the Thai Textile Industry Association.
The textile industry, once considered a sunset industry, has in recent months seen a sudden surge in the orders of customers returning to the country after being turned down by suppliers in China.
This comes despite signs that textile and garment exports from China were picking up last year when the country reported double-digit growth in its textile-related shipments.
China's textile imports and exports hit record highs in 2010, leading a recovery from the shadows of the financial crisis and a reeling global economy, according to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textiles.
Both imports and exports saw yearly growth above 20 percent in 2010. Even compared to the pre-crisis year of 2008, they swelled by 11.5 percent and 9.1 percent respectively, signaling the Chinese textile industry's move into substantive growth from an uncertain rally.
The value of textile product and garment trade increased by 23.3 percent year-on-year to $226.77 billion in 2010, accounting for 7.6 percent of China's total trade value, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Imports of textiles and garments continued to increase in 2010. In the first quarter of the year, the volume increased 15 percent year-on-year, or 4.3 percent compared to the same period of 2008, extending the momentum of a rally that began in December 2009.
But Thailand has managed to hold off the threat from China as more and more companies reap the benefits of years of work to adjust and upgrade. More innovative approaches to operating by the Thai textile and garment industry have helped the industry turn the corner once again. Now the industry is looking to prosper further under greater trade liberalisation with the full opening of the Asean grouping in 2015.
"As 2015 approaches, it is imperative that Thailand and our Asean friends be prepared for the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), and the challenges that it will bring in order to maintain our trade competitiveness, not only as a nation, but also as a bloc," said Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the Department of Export Promotion of Thailand.
"Therefore, the DEP is doing its utmost to encourage Thai manufacturers in all industrial sectors, but especially in the fashion industry, to develop products with greater innovation. "They are also being encouraged to apply more appealing designs that meet international market demands, as well as strengthen business partnerships through local and Asean alliances."
Mr. Pongsak says that the country's textile industry was already innovative and was using the various countries in the region as its production bases in order to blunt the impact of cheaper goods from countries such as China in the past.
The sharper focus should help the industry record higher growth this year. The Thai fashion industry (textiles, garments and apparel) last year recorded total exports of $7.68 billion, an increase of 19.2 percent from 2009. Exports of leather goods rose 11.1 percent to $1.59 billion.
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