Volume and value change, unit price change. CAFTA-DR and member-country data

U.S. Imports from Central America and the Dominican Republic Statistical Report

Year after year, Central America has lost shares of the US apparel import market, especially in volume terms. The clothing industry of this region is now threatened by the duty-free access offered to Vietnam under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Central America however retains strong positions with specific market segments, as reflected by our series of tables and charts displaying a comprehensive view of the US apparel imports from CAFTA-DR. Specific data are also supplied for Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.

Central American countries have continued losing shares of the US apparel import market in 2015, although they enjoy a duty-free access under specific rules of origin.

Imports from Central America and the Dominican Republic have only risen 1.9% in volume terms last year, compared with an overall increase of 6.1%.

As a result, the share of the six countries has dropped to 11.2% in volume terms, or below Vietnam's share of 11.5% over the same period of time.

CAFTA-DR endangered

Ten years ago, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica have signed a free trade agreement with the United States, known as CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement), with the Dominican Republic (DR) having later joined the group.

Over the years however, the duty-free advantage has been eroded by the rising competitiveness of Asian suppliers and preferential treatment offered to other countries, like Haiti, Egypt, Jordan or Sub-Saharan Africa.

Central American exports are now directly threatened by the duty-free access which could be offered to Vietnam under the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) if this controversial agreement is eventually passed by the US Congress.

Nicaragua is most dynamic

Amid CAFTA-DR, Nicaragua has been the most dynamic supplier over the last years with a rise of 34% in shipments to the United States from 2010 to 2015.

Imports from CAFTA's leader Honduras have declined at the beginning of the period before rising in the last two years.

US imports from El Salvador have stagnated in 2012-2014 before eventually rising in 2015.

Shipments from Guatemala and the Dominican Republic have gained 3.5% and 4.2% in 2015 respectively, however from lower levels.

Higher growth of unit prices

Average unit prices of products from CAFTA-DR have risen 20% in only five years, whereas unit values were only up 8% for total US apparel imports.

Nicaragua is the only supplier of CAFTA-DR having really reduced its unit price in the last three years.

Although experiencing a decline, Central America keeps strong market positions.

In cotton knit shirt categories (including T-shirts) 338 and 339, the region still has 38% and 26% of the market in volume terms, respectively.

Countries like Honduras enjoy low labor costs and a proximity with the US territory.

Strong with man-made fibers

The regions has also benefited from the relocation of synthetic fiber weaving facilities in order to comply with rules of origin.

As a result, the share of man-made fiber apparel in total shipments is 40.7% in value terms, vs 42.7% for total US imports.

The region's market share are even impressive in 638 (MMF men/boys knit shirts) with 44% of total US imports.

With Vietnam being also very strong in MMF categories, the future of the Central American clothing industry will obviously depend on the final decision of the US Congress related to the TPP.

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US Apparel Imports from CAFTA-DR (csv file)

US Apparel Imports per Category (csv file)


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Central America
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