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Meeting the challenge of China: the Vietnamese garment industry in the post MFA era



Faculty of Economics, Kansai University, Japan College of International Management, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan

School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK (corresponding author)

Abstract Although China has diversified into sophisticated, higher value-added exports, it is still a formidable competitor in global markets for basic labour-intensive products. It is the worlds largest exporting country of textiles and garments, the archetypical driver of industrial growth both in developed countries in the past and in most newly industrializing countries more recently. When the export restrictions under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) ended at the start of 2005, it was predicted that China would greatly increase its market shares at the expense of most competitors, except perhaps India. Vietnam has proved to be an effective competitor in the garment industry in markets where China is dominant. In this article, we investigate how key export-oriented garment suppliers of Vietnam have been coping with competitive challenges in the post MFA era at a time when global buyers have been reorganizing their international production networks. We emphasize the influence of different global value chains on upgrading since Vietnamese suppliers switched to the US market after the implementation of the US Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2001. We note the uneven performance of Vietnamese garment suppliers, with some lagging behind others in upgrading and competitiveness, and their different responses to Vietnams growing labour shortages. We base the article mainly on interviews conducted over the 20012008 period with garment companies and global buyers in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. Keywords GARMENT INDUSTRY, TEXTILES, GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS, MULTI-FIBRE

Global Networks 11, 3 (2011) 35579. ISSN 14702266. 2011 The Author(s)
Journal compilation 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd & Global Networks Partnership


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn In this article, we investigate how Vietnamese export-oriented garment suppliers are coping with challenges from international integration. Garments are Vietnams largest manufactured export item, and the abolition of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) has increased international competition, especially from China. Although China has diversified into more sophisticated, higher value-added exports (Lall and Albaladejo 2004), it is still a formidable competitor in global markets for basic labour-intensive products. It is the worlds largest exporter of textiles and garments (WTO 2009). From 1974, the MFAs elaborate quota system strictly controlled international trade in textiles and garments. Under this, the largest garment markets in the world, including the USA and EU, restricted their imports to protect their domestic suppliers. They tightly specified the restrictions on volume by product category and export origin. In 1994, during the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations, an Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) gradually abolished the MFA quota system over a ten-year transition period that would last until 31 December 2004. Thus, after 2005, trade in textiles and garments was to be integrated into normal WTO rules (Yamagata 2007). 1 The abolition of the MFA provided competitive suppliers with opportunities to expand their exports further. At the same time, it also meant that less competitive exporters would face threats because supplies from more competitive sources could now substitute previous exports guaranteed under the quota system. The predictions were that China would triple its share of the US garment market and increase its share in the EU by more than half, with other producers shares falling, except for Indias (Nords 2004). The easiest way for a country like Vietnam to counter such threats was to reduce costs. As the garment industry is very labour intensive, much of this would translate into lowering wages when productivity levels remained stable. However, reducing costs has its drawbacks and to realize sustainable development of the industry, it is important to raise productivity continuously. In this article, we look at what kinds of qualitative changes the abolition of the MFA has brought to the Vietnamese garment industry, what strategies key suppliers in the industry have applied in response to such changes, and what this implies for its development trajectory. We shall analyse the industry in terms of the positioning of Vietnams major garment suppliers within international production and distribution networks. We use the global value chain (GVC) framework to illustrate how individual firm level strategies have resulted in process, product, or functional upgrading. We combine an overview of the Vietnamese garment industry with a longitudinal study of ten large garment producers, mostly state-owned or formerly state-owned, interviewed in 2001 and again in 2007. The 2001 survey included 59 garment companies, of which 23 were export oriented. Of these 23, seventeen were state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and six private firms. As a comprehensive list of garment suppliers was unavailable at the time of interview (and still is, as far as we know), we drew the companies from a publication, Vietnam Textile Garment Industry the Present and Future, which the state holding company Vinatex (Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group) produced in 1997. This book included a list of garment (and textile) companies that were operating at the


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Meeting the challenge of China time of publication, which in 2001 seemed exhaustive. We selected the companies from this list and gave priority to large export-oriented garment producers, which tended to be SOEs. We contacted almost all the large SOEs on the list (which were under the Vinatex umbrella), but only 23 agreed to in-depth interviews. To be representative, we included smaller ones too, which were entirely domestic oriented. For the smaller ones we used a more or less randomized sampling (systematic random sampling method). Getting appointments for these firms was more difficult, but we interviewed 36, which were located in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Tay Nguyen, Dong Nai, Bing Duong, and Ho Chi Minh City. Data for 2007 include interviews with ten garment suppliers, predominantly SOEs or former SOEs selected from the 23 companies interviewed in 2001. A purely randomized sample would be difficult to implement for these types of companies, and we cannot reveal more details for reasons of preserving anonymity. Note that ten companies is a large sample in relation to the number of companies operating under Vinatex. In the early 2000s, Vinatex had 42 member textile and garment companies, including all the centrally run textile and garment SOEs. At that time, Vinatex accounted for between 30 and 40 per cent (the amount varied according to different sources) of Vietnams garment and textile exports (Nadvi and Thoburn 2004b: 114). In addition, our chosen companies would be unlikely to face the same difficulties gaining state help to contact global buyers that Thomsen (2007) documented for some private companies in Vietnam. Interviews in 2008 with other company and key informants provide an additional perspective. It proved impossible systematically to interview the same companies at the time of the 2008 interviews, though we did visit some of them again. In the next section, we briefly discuss global value chains in relation to entry barriers and upgrading before going on to present an overview of the Vietnamese garment industry. In the core of the article, the fourth section, we detail the longitudinal study of ten large Vietnamese garment producers. Global value chains, entry barriers and upgrading Analysis of GVCs looks at the process of selling a product from the supply of raw materials to its final distribution and marketing (see Gereffi and Memedovic 2004; Palpacuer et al. 2005). A GVC, however, is more than a set of inputoutput relations spread over a number of countries. Economic agents at certain stages of the chain control the entry and distribution of activities over the chain; in other words, they exercise governance and they can earn rents (surplus profits see below). Garments are buyer-driven GVCs, where barriers to entry and rents are concentrated at the retail end. In clothing GVCs, a number of buyers without factories of their own generally organize production. The needs of global buyers generate barriers to entry, in the sense that they include requirements about production volume capabilities, product quality and the services (including compliance with international social and environmental standards) that some suppliers are able to offer and others not. These barriers are

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn over and above those necessary simply to enter the industry to produce for the domestic market, which are low in the case of garment production, based on low capital costs and low wage labour. Access to particular markets, such as available trade preferences, for firms from the country in question also influence buyers sourcing patterns. Lead times that suppliers can offer are also an important determinant of a buyers sourcing. The requirements of different buyers, particularly from different markets, may differ, with some buyers requiring more in the way of services their suppliers can perform. There is also evidence that buyers requirements have been tightening, focusing on a smaller number of supplier countries and on a smaller number of suppliers within each country (Nadvi and Thoburn 2004a: 2601). Barriers to entry generate economic rents, in the sense of profits arising from the scarcity that the barriers create, insulating the producer from competition, although most rents in garments occur at the retail end and are associated with control of brands and market outlets (Kaplinsky 2005: 62). However, though increased buyer requirements generate barriers to new entrants to the chain, they do not always increase rents for existing producers who upgrade to meet them: the upgrading may be necessary simply to maintain a foothold in the chain. The concept of upgrading is a central part of GVC analysis. Upgrading is a form of innovation that generates rent if it occurs ahead of that of rivals (Kaplinsky 2005: 63). There is a wide consensus in the GVC literature that one can most usefully categorize upgrading within a GVC into three broad areas product upgrading, process upgrading and functional upgrading (see for instance Gereffi and Memodovic 2004; Kaplinsky 2005; Kaplinsky and Morris 2001; Palpacuer et al. 2005). Product upgrading involves producing new products or improving the design or specification of existing ones; process upgrading involves reducing costs or shortening lead times; and functional upgrading involves successfully taking on new functions, such as design, labelling or materials sourcing. Some writers have introduced additional categories. For example, Palpacuer et al. (2005: 412) write of volume-based upgrading where costs can be lowered if orders are large enough to generate economies of scale. We think this is best included under process upgrading, although in some circumstances it can be useful to separate it out. Producers sometimes are able to learn from buyers about how to upgrade (Schmitz and Knorringa 2000). Overview of Vietnam and its export oriented garment industry Vietnam has been growing fast since the implementation of the Doi Moi economic reform policy in 1986. Its economic growth has been particularly strong since it started establishing trade relations with Western economies in the 1990s, when the economy had the fastest export growth rate in the world. While growth slowed


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Meeting the challenge of China somewhat after the Asian financial crisis in 1997, overall it remained robust (Thoburn 2007, 2009). Until the late 1980s, Vietnams textile and garment (T&G) exports were predominantly to the former Soviet bloc, but this trade declined precipitously after the collapse of the USSR. Vietnams entry into export garment production for Western and Japanese markets has required access to GVCs. The tendency to source from established East Asian foreign investors within GVCs the well-known triangular manufacturing system (Appelbaum 2008; Gereffi 1999) is breaking down to some extent as more and more buyers establish local offices in major producing countries and become more expert in assessing local companies. Foreign-owned production remains important, however, although its importance varies considerably from country to country. In the extreme case of Cambodia, for example, almost all production is in the hands of foreign-invested enterprises, mainly from Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong (Natsuda et al. 2010). In Vietnam, in 2008 foreign firms accounted for 32 per cent of textile and 45 per cent of garment output, compared with 26 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in 2000 (figures from In Vietnams main competitor, China, in 2008 foreign invested companies produced 42 per cent of garment gross output and 23 2 per cent of textile gross output. The share of foreign companies in both Vietnams and Chinas exports would probably be higher than the production share in the case of garments, and lower (for direct exports) in the case of textiles. Unlike China, Vietnams (direct) exports of textiles are minimal, and its T&G export expansion 3 has focused almost exclusively on garments. In Vietnam, foreign garment companies are almost wholly export oriented (for further details see Thoburn 2010: 1011). In both Vietnam and China, state-owned or semi state-owned producing enterprises have been important in maintaining a local presence. In 2008, Vietnams state owned enterprises still produced 27 per cent of the countrys textile output and 10 per cent of its garment output. This was despite those proportions being considerably lower than in 2000, when the shares were 51 per cent for textiles and 32 per cent for garments, for SOEs have been (semi-)privatized and the private sector has grown. On average, garment manufacturing SOEs in Vietnam have been better equipped in terms of capital and access to foreign markets compared with private suppliers, and have been playing important roles in the export oriented industry (Goto 2003). The state holding company Vinatex was generating between 30 and 40 per cent of Vietnams T&G exports in the early 2000s (Nadvi and Thoburn 2004b: 114). In China, in the late 1990s, SOEs produced 36 per cent of textile gross output, though only 7 per cent of its garment 4 output (UNCTAD 2002: 152). By 2008, however, the privatization of SOEs had 5 brought that figure down to 3 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. The private sector accounted for 50 per cent of textile and 41 per cent of garment output. In Vietnam, textile and garment SOEs undertook major economic reform in the 1990s, raising output per worker considerably (Nadvi and Thoburn 2004b). In China too, the state-owned textile and garment sector was at the forefront of economic reform in the 1990s (Eberhardt and Thoburn 2007). Household firms primarily catered for the domestic garment market in Vietnam in the past. They accounted for 2011 The Author(s)


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn 15 per cent of garment output in 2007 (the latest figure available) and are predominantly micro enterprises, often under informal subcontracting arrangements for larger private firms (Goto 2005). Vietnamese SOEs have also entered the domestic retail market with brands of their own. The private economic sector accounted for 30 per cent of apparel output in Vietnam in 2007 (the latest available figure), up from 17 per cent in 2000. However, some segments of the private sector find it difficult to enter export markets since they lack necessary state support in connecting with buyers (Thomsen 2007). The importance of the garment industry in exports Figure 1 summarizes the main export items of Vietnam based on the HS2002 trade classification. Unlike neighbouring Cambodia, for example, where the overwhelming bulk of export earnings come from garments (Natsuda et al. 2010), Vietnam has a more diversified export portfolio. Garments were only 14 per cent of total exports in 6 2008, but they are still the second largest export item, after crude oil, and the largest manufacturing export. Figure 1: Major export items of Vietnam in 2008

8% 20%

6% 6% 7% 14% 6%


Others Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, etc. (HS2002; 27) Footwear (HS2002; 64) Fish & crustacean, mollusc & other aquatic invertebrate (HS2002; 03) Electrical machinery and equipment and parts (HS2002; 85) Apparel and clothing (Woven fabric, HS2002; 62) Apparel and clothing (Knitted fabric, HS2002; 61)

Note: Numbers do not add up to 100 per cent due to rounding, and similarly for total of HS 62 and 61. Source: UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UNcomtrade).


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Meeting the challenge of China Figure 2 depicts the trends of garment exports between 1997 and 2008 in terms of value and share. The figure shows that exports have, apart from 1998, increased rapidly, while the share of garments in total exports has remained more or less the same. Figure 2: Garment exports from Vietnam
10000 9000 8000 7000 Million US Dollars 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 1384 1302 1622 1821 1867 5579 7400 8724 20.0% 18.0% 16.0% 14.0% 12.0% 10.0% 8.0% 6.0% 4.0% 2.0% 0.0%
Share of total exports

Exports in million US$ Share of garment

2633 3465

4681 4250

Note: Export data are based on SITC Rev.3 84 (Clothing and accessories). Source: UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UNcomtrade).

Changes in value chain orientation Vietnams orientation towards Western markets dates from its bilateral trade agreement with the European Union in 1992, which gave it MFA export quotas into the EU market effective from 1993, as well as GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) access to the EU. This gives Vietnam a discount on the normal MFN tariff into the EU, although it is subject to rules of origin requirements, which Vietnamese exporters often cannot meet when they import their fabric. However, unlike its garment exporting rivals Cambodia and Bangladesh, Vietnam is not classed as a least developed country and so does not qualify for zero import duty access under the EUs Everything but Arms (EBA) programme, but then neither does China. While Vietnam also enjoyed normal trade access to Japan in the 1990s, the US market was effectively closed. Before 1994, there was a US embargo on imports from Vietnam, and subsequently a prohibitive set of tariffs on Vietnam as a nonmember of the World Trade Organization. Under the USVietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (USBTA) signed in 2000, Vietnam was at last given normal trade relations access to the USA, although Vietnam did not join the WTO until 2007 (Thoburn 2009).

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn Figure 3: Major export markets for Vietnamese garments
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1997 1999
26.3 25.4 29.0 1.8 35.9 32.9 57.1 38.7 2.5 2.4 30.8 17.8 13.2 12.7 9.2 9.0 56.2 60.5 59.0 18.6 22.3 20.6 17.7 15.3 12.2 10.4 18.4 20.9 15.1 17.4 8.2 6.4 8.8 4.9 8.4 2.7 19.2 9.2 4.3 18.5







Taiwan and Korea

Note: Others include all countries ranked outside the top 20 major importers. Source: UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UNcomtrade).

Figure 3 tracks changes in the export destinations of Vietnamese garments. In 1997, the three major destinations Japan, Korea/Taiwan and the EU were each responsible for roughly a quarter of Vietnamese garment exports, with Japan the largest foreign market up until 2001. Following the implementation of the USBTA in 2001, exports expanded rapidly to the USA, which became Vietnams largest market for garments in 2002. Vietnams exports to the EU have been increasing as well, but Japan remains Vietnams second largest country market for garments, with sales roughly double those to Germany and the UK, the largest customers in the EU-27. Between 2000 and 2004, Japans clothing imports from Vietnam stagnated in terms of dollars, and increased only marginally in terms of yen, while sales to the USA boomed. Between 2004 and 2009, however, Japans clothing imports from Vietnam 7 increased 84 per cent in dollar terms and 40 per cent in yen terms. Asian importers besides Japan, particularly Korea and Taiwan, remained major export destinations until 2002, but since then exports to those countries have dropped in terms of share, particularly for Korea. The falls to Korea and Taiwan represent the possibility that, prior to 2001, some exports to those countries were subsequently rerouted to the USA, 8 which no longer was necessary after the USBTA. Table 1 indicates Vietnams position in major markets in relation to China as of 2008. Chinas dominant position is clear, but the table also shows Vietnams strong position in the world, US and Japanese markets. In all cases, including the EU-27, Vietnams market share has increased since 2004.


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Meeting the challenge of China Table 1: China and Vietnam in the world garment economy, 2008 World Exports US$ billion Market share of China (%) Rank of China Market share of Vietnam (%) Rank of Vietnam 361.9 33.2 1 2.5 7 US Imports 82.5 34.6 1 7.1 2 EU-27 Imports 177.8 22.7 2 1.1 10 Japan Imports 25.9 84.2 1 3.5 3

Sources and notes: Export data from WTO (2009), Eurostat for EU-27 market share and rank of China in EU, and Comtrade for ranks and shares in Japan and USA. Note that EU-27 countries are the largest suppliers of clothing to the EU market; otherwise, China would be the largest supplier with a market share of 42.6 per cent (and Vietnams would be 2.1 per cent). Vietnam world rank assumes Hong Kong as 2, which includes Hong Kongs re-exports; otherwise Vietnam would be number 6.

Trade distortions that have continued since the end of the MFA have greatly affected Vietnams positioning within different value chains, operating not only as they apply to Vietnam directly, but also, and equally importantly, indirectly via their impacts on China. After the end of the MFA, Vietnam was still subject to MFA-style quotas into the US market as a non-member of the WTO. After Vietnams WTO accession in January 2007, to check for dumping, the USA started a Vietnam Textile and Apparel Import Monitoring Program. The Bush administration took the view that the large Vietnamese state-owned textile and apparel sector was distorting trade and harming US domestic producers (Ellis 2007). In the event, the USA failed to identify sufficient dumping by the Vietnamese to invoke sanctions, and announced that the programme 9 would not be continued beyond January 2009. Nevertheless, the monitoring programme had important short run effects. When interviewed in August 2007, Vietnamese suppliers and international buyers saw the programme as a major risk because of the uncertainties related to possible future export restrictions to the USA. The Vietnamese governments reaction was to introduce a system of export licensing to restrict export growth to 30 per cent after WTO entry in 2007, which would avoid provoking the US government. To facilitate this, it placed much of export production in the hands of a small number of large SOEs/exSOEs over which control could easily be imposed (interviews February 2008). The US restrictions also led in 2007 to some Vietnamese suppliers adopting a strategy of reducing export shares to the USA and, in turn, increasing exports to other major markets, particularly the EU and Japan. Several key exporters emphasized this as their new strategy, and the most competitive and productive suppliers were even claiming to be starting to select buyers by rejecting some of the new incoming 10 orders from the USA.

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn This new strategy implied some shift in the balance of power between suppliers and buyers within a chain that is fundamentally buyer driven. The increased market power of Vietnamese producers depended largely on global buyers views of the risks of sourcing from China, its main rival. Following initial surges in 2005 to both EU and US markets, after the lifting of MFA quota restrictions from China, the EU restricted important categories of apparel imports from China until the end of 2007, and the USA until the end of 2008. Company B (refer forward to Table 3), for instance, noted a sharp fall in orders in early 2005, after China was freed of MFA restrictions, and then a rise in export orders when restrictions were reimposed on China in late 2005. Other companies noticed falls in prices for export orders during the 2005 China surge. In 2008, despite the beginning of declining US market demand resulting from the sub-prime crisis, there was a strong sense among companies interviewed that buyers were shifting purchases away from China towards Vietnam, and that Vietnamese suppliers could be more selective. Indeed, Vietnam was increasingly becoming the one in buyers China plus one sourcing policies. Buyers and not only US buyers sought to reduce the risks of over-dependence on Chinese supplies, while China was not only restricted in the USA but was facing rising domestic costs in its main producing areas in the south (HKTDC 2007; SCMP 2008). This was despite Vietnam having only a limited supply of textiles from its own SOEs (and from Korean and Taiwanese inward investors); in fact, Vietnams physical proximity to China has helped Vietnams garment industry base its exports on imported Chinese fabrics. We should note, however, that not all Vietnamese suppliers were able to be selective about orders. The more competitive suppliers, whose demand was typically larger than their supply capacity, mainly adopted the new strategy. Less competitive suppliers have become more dependent on the growing export businesses to US markets in conditions where they were unable to negotiate terms or reject orders. Differences of market positions according to export destinations In the world garment industry, buyers determine product specification through the demands and conditions of the markets they serve. Important for the purpose of this article, however, are the differences in the types of garments that Vietnamese 11 suppliers produce for different export destinations. Figure 4 attempts to classify Vietnamese products with respect to the level of value-added and production volume per order for the Japanese, US and EU markets respectively. Note that this classification is in relative terms based on perspectives of Vietnamese suppliers and some international buyers who cater for multiple export destinations. Later, we discuss this in terms of import unit values into Vietnams three main markets. Most Vietnamese garments produced for Japan, Vietnams largest single country market after the USA, are on the higher value-added end, with relatively complex design and product specification compared with the EU and USA. The size for Japanese orders is typically small, and with wide variations in size and colour.


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Meeting the challenge of China Figure 4: Market segment classification for Vietnamese garments

Japanese Market

Value Added

EU Market

US Market

Low Small Quantity per Order Large

Source: Based on interviews conducted in 2007.

While cost pressures are increasing from Japanese market oriented value chains, buyers still regard quality as extremely important. Those who coordinate production and distribution for this market see Vietnamese suppliers key sources of competitiveness as their capacity to produce products with complex specifications subject to stringent quality requirements. This, according to them, is what differentiates Vietnam from other exporters such as India and China, which they perceive as better suited for market segments in the relatively cheaper volume zone categories. According to Japanese buyers, however, Chinas garment industry is much wider in scope and thus able to produce everything, including items that range from low value-added, price competitive products to high value-added mens and womens suits. They are therefore also able to supply similar items to those where Vietnam has competitiveness. However, Vietnam has comparative advantages in catering for smaller and more complex niche market orders, relative to China. By contrast, garments for the US market are mostly supplied to segments in the lower price range, where competition in prices is extremely fierce. Reducing costs becomes most important, and is done by producing garments with very simple design specifications allowing suppliers to minimize operational losses. Most orders for the US market are also large in terms of quantity, which allows Vietnamese suppliers to gain productivity from being on the same learning curve for a longer period, helping to achieve the economies of scale that Palpacuer et al. (2005: 412) call volume-based upgrading. The EU market is between the Japanese and US markets in terms of both the levels of value-added and order quantity. Such differences based on market destinations have important implications for the 2011 The Author(s)


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn Vietnamese garment industry since they define its expectations from buyers and its key international competitors. To a certain extent, they also define the main areas in which competitiveness will be built up over time. Japanese trading companies or brand apparel firms normally coordinate value chains that cater for Japanese markets. To minimize the business risks of retailers rejecting products that fail to meet their precise specifications, Japanese buyers are strongly committed to raising the technical capacity of Vietnamese suppliers. The most common method of achieving this is to dispatch their technical staff to suppliers on a relatively long-term basis, at the buyers expense. Another is to train Vietnamese production line managers at Japanese garment manufacturing firms in Japan. Through such arrangements, they transfer relatively advanced knowledge and technology, particularly on configurations of production lines and management methods, to Vietnamese suppliers. As such, arrangements are costly to Japanese buyers and are de facto context specific investments; they also tend to prefer to establish a long-term relationship with selected suppliers. Value chains oriented towards Japanese markets are thus typical quasi-hierarchical in terms of their governance structure (Humphrey and Schmitz 2000). The transfer of knowledge and technology through such interfirm relationships has helped to increase the productivity of Vietnamese suppliers (Goto 2003). Garments for the US and EU markets, on the other hand, are coordinated in value chains typically governed by traders from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, who function as agents for American and European retailers and apparel firms. Transfers of technology through production arrangements are much more limited compared with production arrangements by Japanese buyers, primarily because the level of quality required is lower. As price competitiveness is exceedingly important for the majority of exports to these markets, orders are placed competitively, which may result in less stable business relationships with value chain coordinators compared with Japanese market oriented value chains. The possibility of different development trajectories according to value chain orientation Differences in export destinations and value chain orientation can play out in terms of potential upgrading. For some types of upgrading, particularly of processes and products, technology transfers through the linkages with production and distribution networks that international buyers coordinate are important (Schmitz and Knorringa 2000). Functional upgrading, however, is about shifting towards more knowledge and skill intensive functions in the value chain, which is more difficult and requires more time (Giuliani et al. 2005; Goto 2007; Humphrey and Schmitz 2000). There is a danger for Vietnam that competitive pressures may compel firms to compete by cutting production costs. This could lead to a race to the bottom, in which firms lower costs at the expense of social conditions, particularly labour standards (Kaplinsky and Morris 2001: 31). In this context, firms connected to value chains that Japanese buyers coordinate have a better chance of process and product


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Meeting the challenge of China upgrading through the transfer of new and advanced technology. Exports to the US market, by contrast, compete primarily on costs, so technological transfers from buyers to Vietnamese suppliers are much more limited. In exporting to the USA, Vietnamese firms may end up competing directly on costs with garment exporting countries such as Bangladesh and India, where wages are lower. When this happens, adding new technological content would become important. Product analysis Some 54 per cent of Vietnams garment exports were woven fabric based garments (such as shirts, trousers and jackets) and the rest knitted garments (sweaters, polo shirts and dresses). However, this proportion differs considerably between Vietnams main markets. Less than half of Vietnams exports to the USA in 2008 were woven, but for Japan, Vietnams largest single country market outside the USA, the figure was nearly 70 per cent. Similarly, for the EU-27, nearly three-quarters of Vietnams 12 garment exports were woven. In the USA, the years from 2004 to 2009 saw a substantial rise in the shares of knits (HS 61) to the US market in relation to wovens (HS 62): the share of wovens in imports from Vietnam fell from 57 per cent in 2004 to 42 per cent in 2009. Between 2004 and 2009, total garment exports in current dollar terms rose 1.95 times, while knits increased 2.6 fold and wovens 1.45 fold. Vietnam rose to be the number two supplier of knits to the USA after China, and went up from sixth to fourth most important supplier for wovens. Vietnams performance, while impressive, is less remarkable than that of China. Between 2004 and 2009, China increased its share of US imports of knits from 13 per cent to 34 per cent, compared with Vietnams 3 per cent to 9 per cent; and, for wovens, China increased its share from 19 per cent to 42 per cent, compared with Vietnams 4 per cent to 7 per cent. By contrast, the share of wovens in EU imports in 2009 is only slightly down from the 2004 (pre-MFA removal) figure of 77 per cent. Nonetheless, over the same period, Chinas share of wovens among its exports to the EU decreased from 63 per cent to 55 per cent (figures from Eurostat). In an Appendix (not published here but available on request to the corresponding author), we conduct analysis of market shares and export unit values for the top six HS (2002) 4-digit imports into each of Vietnams three main markets. The top six products in each market account for nearly two-thirds of each markets imports of apparel from Vietnam (though only three products are in the top six in all three markets). Table 2 provides support for our earlier contention that the Japanese market is for higher value products than the USA, for the three 4-digit HS products, which are in the top six apparel imports of all three of Vietnams major markets. In addition, for two of the three products, the EU-27 occupies an intermediate position in terms of unit values. Evidence of process upgrading is best sought in the US data, from which one can 13 calculate unit values per item (as well as per kilo). In all six cases, Vietnams market share in the USA increased over the period 20049. In terms of unit values based on

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn the numbers of items, Vietnams UVs fell for five of its top six 4-digit products. For all but one (HS 6203, men and boys suit, trousers, jackets), however, Vietnam has experienced unit values falling by much less than in the case of China, suggesting that Vietnamese products have been better able to maintain their value at a time when Chinese export appears to have been driving down apparel prices in most cases. Table 2: Import unit values for Vietnam in its major markets, 2009 ($ per 100 kilos) HS 2002 4-digit main imports from Vietnam 6110 (jerseys and cardigans) 6204 (W/G suits, skirts) 6203 (M/B suits, trousers) USA 1863 1611 1472 Japan 2137 3450 2350 EU-27 1457 1708 1706

Sources and notes: Calculated from Comtrade for USA and Japan, and Eurostat for EU. See Appendix for more details. HS categories are those in the top six apparel 4-digit imports from Vietnam in all three major markets. EU-27 unit values converted to US$ at average 2009 exchange rate of 1 = 1.39 (Exchange rate from W/G is womens and girls, M/B is mens and boys.

Vietnamese garment suppliers did upgrading happen? In this section we presents a longitudinal case study over the period 2001 to 2007 of ten large domestic garment companies, average size more than 6600 workers, mostly in (or recently in) the state sector. We attempt to analyse whether these key garment suppliers were able to upgrade in the post MFA era, with special reference to the changing domestic economic environment. Our focus on domestic companies reflects the fact that foreign-invested firms, in contrast, have the opportunity to upgrade with help from their parent companies. This focus also reflects the fact that SOEs and former SOEs are likely to receive state help in establishing buyer contacts, help that is unavailable to parts of the private sector (Thomsen 2007). The situation of garment suppliers in 2007 in comparison with 2001 In Table 3, we provide a summary overview of the firms interviewed in 2001 and 2007. We interviewed ten firms in both years, of which five were located in Hanoi and five in Ho Chi Minh City. While most of the firms have expanded in terms of output since 2001, three suppliers (A, G and J) experienced almost no change, and for one (E) output actually decreased. In terms of export ratio, most of the firms were already primarily focusing on the export market in 2001, and this had not changed in 2007. It was very common to see suppliers like D and G that produce garments solely for the export market. F was the only one that reduced its export share (and thus increased production for the domestic garment market), but the shares had fallen slightly from 90 per cent in 2001 to 88 per cent in 2007.


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Meeting the challenge of China Table 3: Outline of key suppliers (in comparison to the situation in 2001)
Change in Outputs Share of Exports Share Number Average of of Wages CMT Workers


Labour Shortage
Major Problem Major Problem Major Problem Problematic Major Problem

Expanding and/or Relocation

Thai Nguyen, Bac Ninh Hai Phong, Thai Binh, Quang Binh Vinh Phuc Nam Dinh, Thai Binh Nam Dinh, Ha Nam Ben Tre, Vinh Long, Tien Giang, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan Long An, Dong Thap An Giang, Tien Giang, Da Lat, Gia Lai, Binh Duong Long An, Laos, Cambodia Currently planning

About About the same the same About the same No Change No Change



Not a Problem

About the same

Major Problem

No Change


About the same

About No the same Change No Change n.a.

No Change

Not a Problem Problematic

Notes: means that the annual increase since 2001 was more than 10%, is an annual increase less than 10%. Likewise, means an average annual decrease of 10% or more, and is a decrease less than 10% a year. On labour shortages, answers are categorized into either Major Problem, Problematic, or Not a Problem. n.a. means that data was not available at the time of interview. Source: From interviews in 2001 and 2007.

2011 The Author(s)


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn Most garments produced in value chains that international buyers coordinate are under the contractual modality CMT (cut-make-and-trim). Under CMT, Vietnamese suppliers only carry out the labour-intensive assembly functions, and these are of low knowledge intensity; buyers supply Vietnamese firms most of the input materials, such as fabrics and accessories, free of charge. Vietnamese suppliers produce garments based on buyers specifications and export all products under buyers arrangements in exchange for processing fees. Vietnamese producers carry no responsibility for knowledge intensive functions such as product design, distribution arrangement and marketing. Most of the business risks are concentrated in these knowledge intensive functions, which is where the level of value-added is highest (Goto 2003, 2007; Nadvi and Thoburn 2004b). The share of CMT arrangements had decreased for most suppliers apart from D and I. Instead, such firms have increased their shares in the FOB (free-on-board) type orders, in which Vietnamese suppliers procure fabrics and accessories on their own 15 financial account. However, such FOB can include a wide range of functions. Most types of FOB in Vietnam involve arrangements whereby Vietnamese suppliers only purchase input materials when the buyers instruct them to do so, which is, in essence, the equivalent of CMT. There were also no suppliers using Vietnamese inputs, except for some minor accessories including carton boxes, nametags and plastic bags. However, we know that a number of state textile companies have integrated forwards into garments using their own fabrics (Nadvi and Thoburn 2004b: 114). In terms of numbers of workers, which has direct implications for changes in operational scale and output, the outcome has been quite diverse with six suppliers increasing, three decreasing, and one being roughly the same. On wages, however, all suppliers reported an increase. In Table 4, we provide a summary of average wages and compare those for the garment industry with the average for all manufacturing based industries for 2000 to 2008. According to this, wages in all industries, including the garment sector, have increased, particularly after 2006 with growing inflation. The average wage level in the garment industry is lower than in the manufacturing sector in general. All suppliers in 2007, apart from F and I, faced labour shortages. Most of the suppliers we interviewed had their factories in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. The factories of the few that did not were nevertheless located fairly near the city centres. Wage rates in the large city areas were increasing rapidly, thus making the Vietnamese garment suppliers wages relatively unattractive. The labour turnover rate was high and retaining or hiring workers was becoming increasingly difficult. Some of the workers who left those firms went to garment suppliers that offered higher wages, but many were moving to better-paid jobs outside the garment industry, often in the more capital-intensive manufacturing sector, or in the service sector. By 2008, these difficulties had intensified. This squeezed garment companies between inflationary pressure on wages and other costs on the one hand, and the customers unwillingness to raise prices, on the other. All the companies interviewed in 2001 and 2007 had plans either to build additional production capacity in rural areas, or to relocate all production facilities to


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Meeting the challenge of China rural areas where labour was more abundant and cheaper. There is an important difference, however, between companies that established plants based on the first reason and the second. Suppliers that became more competitive and thus were able to increase outputs, such as I and F, generally had no serious problems in either securing workers or hiring new ones. However, the amount of land they had imposed restrictions on attempts to expand operations, so they had to move outside the city centre to build additional manufacturing capacities. The weaker ones, on the other hand, had not only problems in retaining and hiring workers, but they were also struggling just to keep their businesses running. The entry barriers had risen in terms of buyer requirements, and such companies were finding it hard to maintain a foothold. Table 4: Wage comparisons, 20002008
(Average wage VND1000 per month) Manufacturing average % annual increase Textiles % annual increase Apparel % annual increase All activities State sector % annual increase Non-state sector % annual increase Foreign sector % annual increase 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

0953 1001 1049 1161 1259 1390 1581 1832 2295 -05.0 -04.8 -10.7 -08.4 -10.5 -13.7 -15.9 -25.2 0866 0846 0887 0964 1064 1198 1408 1614 2300 0-2.3 -04.9 -08.7 -10.3 -12.6 -17.6 -14.6 -42.5 0872 0846 0849 0995 1076 1143 1338 1522 1908 0-2.9 -00.4 -17.1 0-8.1 -06.2 -17.1 -13.7 -25.4 1025 1126 1274 1590 1671 2146 2617 3202 4054 -09.9 -13.1 -24.8 -05.1 -28.4 -22.0 -22.3 -26.6 0689 0750 0835 0956 1045 1215 1408 1802 2203 -08.9 -11.2 -14.5 -09.3 -16.3 -15.9 -27.9 -22.3 1655 1558 1637 1606 1641 1810 2003 2242 2886 0-5.9 -05.0 0-1.8 -02.1 -10.3 -10.6 -12.0 -28.7

With 100% foreign capital 1282 1295 1217 1343 1412 1572 1786 2016 2548 % annual increase -01.0 0-6.0 -10.4 0-5.1 -11.4 -13.6 -12.9 -26.4 Joint ventures % annual increase 2533 2325 3090 2657 2742 3082 3287 3692 5294 0-8.2 -32.9 -14.0 0-3.2 -12.4 0-6.6 -12.4 -43.4

Source: GSO Enterprise Survey 2009 ( Note: Apparel wage data are for Manufacture of wearing apparel; dressing and dyeing of fur. Calculated for total employee compensation divided by employment.

In addition, the opportunity cost of land was simply too high for such companies, which thus decided to relocate everything from the city centres to rural areas. On the land that would become available through relocation, most planned to establish hotels,

2011 The Author(s)


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn office buildings or shopping centres, with a clear strategic vision of moving out from the garment industry. Vinatex has been diversifying into real estate too, as also have some of the more 16 successful garment exporters we interviewed in 2008. Value chain orientation and upgrading at the factory level Table 5 summarizes changes in export destinations for the firms interviewed in 2001 and 2007. Compared with 2001, most have increased exports to the USA quite drastically with an annual increase in shares of 10 per cent or more, except for F and H. By contrast, the export share to Japan has been decreasing, except for D and E. Changes in the export share to the EU market are more mixed. Companies F and H are interesting cases where changes in export destinations were pursued as part of their enterprise strategies. Both firms were producing around 50 per cent of garments for the US markets prior to 2007, but following the announcement of the US antidumping monitoring programme, they reduced their export shares to the USA rapidly and instead increased it for the EU and Japan. B adopted a similar strategy, and those three are among the most competitive garment suppliers in Vietnam with very stable increases in orders. All three firms became more selective in what type of orders to accept, and in some instances they claimed to be rejecting new orders particularly from the USA and shift production capacity for orders to the EU and Japan. Most of the buyers for the US and EU markets are trading companies from Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, while for the Japanese market they are predominantly Japanese trading companies. In Table 6, we attempt to examine how much upgrading has happened in terms of process, product and function for the suppliers interviewed since 2001. For process upgrading, because consistent and comparable information and data on value, particularly value-added, are unavailable, we compare output per worker in terms of 17 quantity. Roughly half the firms experienced upgrading in their processes, with some increasing productivity levels by as much as between 30 and 50 per cent since 2001. Some firms, however, such as A, C, E and G, were unable to realize significant productivity gains during the same period. Most of the suppliers who were successful in process upgrading either had received (or were still receiving at the time of the interview) technological assistance from Japanese buyers; some had even taken out a long-term lease on very advanced machinery from such buyers in their production line. This group of suppliers expanded their production capacity significantly and hired more workers, whereas the unsuccessful ones had much more difficulty retaining and hiring workers and, as a result, their production capacity shrank. These would suggest that the degree of the suppliers success in process upgrading has strong implications for their ability to cope with retaining and hiring workers, which should be particularly critical in the context of rising wages and labour shortages. Suppliers that were unsuccessful in process upgrading had high turnover rates, resulting in lower average years of experience of their workers. They found it especially difficult to retain skilled workers, which had detrimental effects on labour productivity.


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Meeting the challenge of China Table 5: Export orientation and buyers profiles USA EU Japan**
Buyer Profile

Share Share Share Change* (%), Change (%), Change (%), 2007 2007 2007


60 40

35 40

5 20

Mostly Korean trading companies. For the USA and EU: Trading companies from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. For Japan: Japanese trading companies. For the USA and EU: Trading companies from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. For Japan: Japanese trading companies.


No change




90% of the buyers are trading companies 30 Almost from Korea and Hong Kong. However, (Japan, no there are also some direct relationships Canada, change with American and European wholeTaiwan) salers, trading firms, and retailers. Almost no change 40 For the USA and EU: Trading companies from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. For Japan: Japanese trading companies. For the USA and EU: Trading companies from Hong Kong and Korea. For Japan: Japanese trading companies. Most are trading companies from Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. Orders for one of the largest US retailers, however, goes directly through the retailers branch office in HCMC. For the USA and EU: Trading companies from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. For Japan: Japanese trading companies. For the USA: Trading companies from Hong Kong and Korea. Trading Companies from Korea and Hong Kong.


Almost no change












70 50

A few 30

2326 A few

Notes: * means that the annual increase since 2001 was more than 10 per cent, and is an annual increase less than 10 per cent. Likewise, means an average annual decrease of 10 per cent or more, and is a decrease less than 10 per cent a year. ** Export share for supplier D includes shares for Canada and Taiwan. Source: Interviews during field work in 2007.

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn Table 6: Upgrading since 2001
Supplier Process (productivity) Product Function
No changes of functions in the export business. Tried to promote functions in designing and branding through selling original garments in the domestic market, but have so far not been successful. Exports: No significant change in functions. Domestic: Actively strengthening functions in design, marketing, and distribution for the domestic market. Eight new brands will be created specifically for the domestic market. No significant changes in functions in the export business. Some own designed garment production for the domestic market. Refocusing from FOB to CMT, while trying to upgrade skill contents of its workers particularly in areas of designing and planning. No changes in functions in the export business, but some for the domestic market. Exports: No change in functions. Domestic: Actively strengthening functions in design, marketing, and distribution for the domestic market. Eight new brands will be created specifically for the domestic market. No change in functions. No change in the export business, but actively for the domestic market particularly in designing, planning and marketing. No change in functions in the export business. No change in functions in the export business.

About the same

No change

No change

No change

No change Started producing higher value added products No change


About the same

No change

No change

No change

No change


No change No change

Note:* means that the annual increase since 2001 was more than 10 per cent, and is an annual increase less than 10 per cent. Likewise, means an average annual decrease of 10 per cent or more, and is a decrease less than 10 per cent a year. Source: Interviews during field work in 2007.


2011 The Author(s)

Meeting the challenge of China Wage gaps were also significant among suppliers. Successful suppliers were able to pay about two million Vietnamese Dong (VND) per month for skilled workers, 18 whereas unsuccessful ones were only paying about half that. Productivity increase through process upgrading and retaining workers had cumulative and causal relationships that were transmitted through wage levels higher productivity suppliers were able to attract more orders from buyers, so could offer higher wages and thus attract better workers, while in the opposite case a vicious circle was set in motion. Most of the suppliers interviewed did not experience significant upgrading in either product or functions during 2001 and 2007, with the only exception of D which switched from low value-added production to east European countries (even though under FOB) to more value-added (even though CMT) orders to the USA and EU, and Japan. Most of the suppliers were also primarily producing under CMT, or under an FOB arrangement where functions were fundamentally the same as under CMT (see Goto 2003, 2007 for more details). Six suppliers from the ten firms interviewed in 2007 reported that they would put more emphasis on developing products for the domestic market, whereas in 2001 they had completely neglected the domestic market on the grounds that it was too small. All six suppliers already had, or were in the process of creating, own designed and branded garments specifically for the domestic garment market. This is, in a sense, product and functional upgrading, even though not for an international market. Institutions to support the efficient functioning of the Vietnamese domestic garment market are still relatively underdeveloped, especially in areas such as domestic distribution systems, trade credit arrangements and the protection of intellectual property rights (Goto 2005; McMillan and Woodruff 1999). Major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, however, have been booming with new brand apparel shops. The smaller private Vietnamese enterprises that have successfully made the transformation from garment suppliers to apparel firms performing more knowledge intensive functions, coordinate their production and distribution (Goto 2006). Concerning designing, there are plans to establish a fashion centre in Ho Chi Minh City by 2012 with a view to enhancing the capacity of Vietnamese designers who might contribute towards improving Vietnamese competitiveness in the global market (Barrett 2007). The estimate of total consumption of textile and apparel products in the domestic market in 2006 was US$ 1.8 billion, compared with exports then of about US$ 6 billion. The domestic market was expected to grow both in terms of per capita 19 purchasing power and population growth. Vinatex, the national garment and textile group, has established an extensive domestic distribution system of supermarkets and 20 fashion shops. It had become more important by early 2009 when the world recession caused export growth to slow and when major Vietnamese firms were trying to maintain growth by expanding in the domestic market. Conclusions and prospects The Vietnamese garment industry has recorded remarkable growth since the early 1990s. We have documented how it has proved itself able to withstand competition

2011 The Author(s)


Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn from China since the end of the MFA in 2004 and increase its shares in its three major markets. Vietnam has benefited from global buyers seeing it as the plus one in China plus one sourcing policies designed to reduce risk from overreliance on Chinese supplies. Since the end of the MFA in 2004, Vietnam has enormously expanded its sales to the USA. Its garment sales to Japan, its second largest country market, have increased significantly too. In this article, we have contrasted the market requirements of the USA with those of Japan and shown how Japanese buyers help firms upgrade their production process in particular and their product quality in general. We organized the article around a central case study of ten major Vietnamese garment-exporting companies, mostly in, or formerly in, the state sector. Such companies are more easily able to connect with global buyers and traders than firms in the private sector that lack state contacts. We distinguished between companies in the sample that succeeded in raising their productivity and coped with Vietnams recently growing labour shortages, and those that upgraded less successfully. We are less certain that some Vietnamese firms moves away from CMT (export processing) garment production towards the fuller package FOB modality are truly examples of functional upgrading, for buyers are often quite directive about the companies materials sourcing. An analysis of trade data, using unit value (UV) statistics at the HS 4-digit level, confirms that there are indeed differences in product quality between US and Japanese markets. These show the USA importing major product categories with lower UVs than Japan, while European Union UVs are somewhere between the two. It is more difficult, however, to generalize about the EU-27 because of the highly heterogeneous nature of its individual member country markets. Increasing sales to the USA offer a chance to gain large sales revenue and volume based upgrading through longer periods for learning by doing and larger outputs, but sales to individual large US buyers may be less secure than those to Japan (and EU countries). Those to Japan, while more demanding in terms of product quality, offer firms more opportunity to raise their productivity by upgrading their processes and learning how to produce higher quality products. Vietnam has been suffering from problems of success as its expansion of labour-intensive export production has generated labour shortages in its major producing cities. Similar problems have affected China too, especially in its main production bases, like the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong, where firms have been attempting to counter by shifting production towards the central coastal regions in the hinterland of Shanghai. There are some indications that the weaker garment producers in Vietnam may be quitting the industry prematurely because, rather than upgrading, they are succumbing to the lure of urban property development, though China also is likely to shift out of the lower value-added segments of the garment industry. In 200910, a world recession was reducing world demand for garments, although we cannot yet identify the longer-term effects on producers.


2011 The Author(s)

Meeting the challenge of China Acknowledgements

We constructed this article from Gotos earlier study, for which he undertook fieldwork in Vietnam between 2001 and 2007 Enterprise strategies of Vietnamese garment manufacturing companies in the post MFA era (Posuto MFA ni okeru Betonamu Housei Kigyo no Keiei Senryaku), in Shozo Sakata (ed.) The changing Vietnamese economy and its economic entities (Henyo Suru Betonamu Keizai to Keizai Shutai), Research Report (Chosa Kenkyu Houkoku Sho) 2007-IV-12, Institute for Developing Economies, Chiba, Japan. Natsuda and Thoburn, using fieldwork material collected in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China in 2008, then developed the study further. We are grateful to Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for research finance. We also thank two anonymous referees for very thorough comments.

Analysis of Vietnams comparative trade performance in major markets, 2004 and 2009 is available on request to the corresponding author.

01. Strictly speaking, the MFA ended when the ATC replaced it in 1994. The ATC, in turn, ended on 31 December 2004. However, everyone in the industry continues to refer to the MFA, and so do we. 02. In the Chinese statistics, footwear is included in the garment figures. Data are from 03. We make this point because some Vietnamese statistical sources group textiles and garments together as a single industry. 04. The greater importance of SOEs in textile production in China and Vietnam in the recent past reflects the high capital costs, particularly in spinning, which impeded private local entry. 05. See Note that some 15 per cent of total garment output is not listed as coming under private, state or foreign ownership, and probably is produced by collectives. 06. From, hereinafter Comtrade. 07. Dollar import data from Comtrade, yen import data from Japan Customs Online ( However, the Japan clothing category (Japan code 80701) seems to exclude virtually all knits (HS 61), albeit less important than wovens (HS 62). We indicate both yen and dollars in the text because of large exchange rate changes between the two currencies. 08. We are grateful to a referee for this point. Thomsen (2007: 765) notes that Vietnams garment exports to Korea in the early 2000s were often re-exported. 09. See (accessed 28 March 2011). 10. We have been unable to go back to the buyers to triangulate this among the buyers concerned. 11. Market characteristics in the EU are different for each of the countries within the EU as well (Palpacuer et al. 2005), but, based on interviews with Vietnamese suppliers, we treat them as homogeneous to provide a contrast with the Japanese and US markets. 12. Figures from, hereinafter Eurostat. Comtrade gives export data for Vietnam up to 2008, and import data for its main markets up to 2009.

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Kenta Goto, Kaoru Natsuda and John Thoburn

13. Vietnam up to 2008, and import data for its main markets up to 2009. 14. In one case, Vietnams unit values rose when Chinas fell (HS6105) 15. FOB types of contractual arrangements are more common for exports to the USA and EU, compared with exports to Japan 16. Garment maker tries real estate on for size, Vietnam News, 3 March 2008 (http:// (accessed 29 July 2008). 17. All firms, apart from I, were mainly producing woven fabric garments, particularly mens shirts. The benchmark for comparison has been the number of long-sleeved, regular collar, one-pocket shirts per worker. The numbers ranged between 7 and 24, whereas the Japanese standard is usually somewhere between 28 and 32. 18. In August 2007, US$ 1 was roughly 16,000 VND. 19. See (accessed 23 April 2009). 20. See (dated 14 April 2009, accessed 23 April 2009).

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Meeting the challenge of China

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