Southeast Asia Rebalance of Asian Strategies Structural Changes and Organic Binding

southeast-asiaThe Japanese textile and apparel industries have historically developed and changed in conjunction with the textile and apparel industries in Asia. This structure basically remains unchanged even today. The Asian textile and apparel industries are also diverse in essence. Among the world’s textile and apparel industries, China has an overwhelming presence, and Southeast Asian countries are attracting considerable attention as “China Plus One” production bases. Looking at South Asia, India and Pakistan have historically had deep ties with the Japanese textile and apparel industries, and Bangladesh is increasing its presence as an apparel manufacturing base. The strategies of diverse textile and apparel industries are taken up in this report.

Asia’s Diversity Should Not Be Overlooked
When “Asia” is discussed, there are always many cases of certain one-sidedness depending on the people who talk about it. For instance, Asia is China, or countries in Southeast Asia, India or Pakistan. However, Asia is actually a diverse space where many countries, people, religions and customs coexist. When we say “Asia is one”, it must not be forgotten that it contains the view that “Asia is not one”.

But even Asia has had a number of regions that historically had a geopolitical system. China occupies the central part of Asia, Southeast Asia is linked by sea, and South and West Asia are connected with the Middle East and Europe. The fact that these regions might sometimes have confrontation or might prosper with complementary functions constitutes the complexity of Asia. The strategies for Asia are always an issue of how to survive within these complexities.

This is true even when we talk about the textile and apparel industries in Asia and Japan. Historically, South and West Asia have been suppliers of textile materials as well as competitors. Southeast Asia started out as an export market for cotton yarn and cotton fabrics, and is currently a supply base. And China has overwhelmed the textile and apparel industries in Asia in recent years with its overwhelming production capacity and competitiveness. The Japanese textile and apparel industries have had long relationships with these regions, and have constantly been changing their strategy for these regions. The diversity of Asia must not be overlooked when changes are made.

Dramatically Changing Asian Textile & Apparel Industries
The textile and apparel industries in Asia are undergoing considerable changes. Since the 1990s, China’s open-door policy and reforms have developed the nation’s textile and apparel industries to have an overwhelming presence, and this seemed to have determined the nature of Asian textile and apparel industries. China became an important production base, and especially the relocation of apparel manufacturing to China progressed at a fast rate. As a result of competition with cheap Chinese goods, fiber and textile business can no longer be discussed with China being left out.

However, changes began to occur from the beginning of the 2010s. China’s remarkable economic growth has resulted in a rise of labor costs, reducing the international competitiveness of its labor-intensive textile and apparel industries. The so-called “China Plus One” words began to appear, and Southeast Asia came to draw greater attention as a textile and apparel manufacturing base following China. The Japan-ASEAN economic partnership agreement (EPA) has also increased such movements.

Nevertheless, as in the case of China, Southeast Asia is also faced with the problem of rising labor costs. This is recently accelerating moves to seek alternatives apparel manufacturing bases in South and West Asia such as Bangladesh. Another problem that has arisen at the same time is the poor variety of materials that can be procured locally. For this reason, India and Pakistan have increased their presence as procurement sources for cotton yarn and cotton fabrics.

As a result of the dramatic changes in the Asian textile and apparel industries, the business strategies for Asia need to be rearranged to be made more appropriate and suitable. It is an issue of how to organically bind business in the regions including Japan. Initiatives that extensively examine the entire supply chain management in Asia and Japan are required. Such a “Rebalance of Asian Strategies” is about to be promoted.

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