Shoe exports from Vietnam rose by 6.0 percent to €6.23 billion in the first six months of 2016, says Lefaso, the country's shoe industry association. Increases were recorded in all categories except for leather shoes, whose exports declined by 11 percent because of the growing importance of athletic footwear in the product mix.

Vietnam's exports grew in all the main markets with the exception of the U.K., where they dropped by 8.0 percent. They rose by 20.7 percent in Belgium, by 16.0 percent in Japan, by 7.3 percent in Germany, by 8.8 percent in France and by 6.7 percent in the U.S. They also increased in Mainland China, up by 11.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the China Leather Industries Association (CLIA) has reported declines of 12 percent in value and 5.7 percent in volume for China's shoe exports in the first half of this year, confirming a recent downward trend. The number of pairs exported declined to 4,740 million during the period, and their value fell to $21.8 billion.

The CLIA indicates that all the major foreign markets were affected. The U.S. represented 35.9 percent of the decline with drop of 15.56 percent to $5.6 billion. China's revenues from its footwear exports fell by 11.76 percent in the United Arab Emirates, by 16.40 percent in Germany, by 17.21 percent in France, by 21.11 percent in South Korea and by 13.46 percent in the Netherlands.

According to World Footwear, the figures imply that China's share of global footwear trade may go down to 65 percent in 2016. It has been declining steadily over the last few years, falling from 74 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2013, 72 percent in 2014 and 69 percent in 2015.

The drop in Vietnam's exports of leather shoes can be explained by the fact that it has been developing strongly as a source of athletic footwear. Major sports brands have been sourcing increasing quantities from Vietnam because labor costs are lower than those in China. Pou Chen, the parent company of Yue Yuen (see the article on this company in this issue), had 42 percent of its shoes manufactured in Vietnam in the first nine months of this year. A smaller Taiwan-based producer, Feng Tay Enterprises, made more than half of its footwear in Vietnam. During the third quarter, the U.S. imported about as much athletic footwear from Vietnam as from China.

Vietnam's momentum picked up recently in view of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It would have favored Vietnam over China or Indonesia through reduced import duties for its products in the U.S., Canada and other countries bordering on the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. charges tariffs of up to 40 percent on certain footwear products. Some duties would have been cut in half immediately. For its part, Vietnam, which already has a free trade agreement with the European Union, was prepared to reduce up to 98 percent of its import tariffs right away but it seems clear now that there will be no TPP.

President-elect Donald Trump confirmed that he will call it off immediately after he enters the White House. The governments of the U.S. and the 11 other countries covered by the TPP – Vietnam, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore - had already reached an agreement in principle on the TPP. It still had to be ratified by the national parliaments, including the U.S. Congress. Curiously, however, the parliament of New Zealand ratified it on Nov. 15, seven days after Trump's surprising victory in the polls.

Trump said that he wants instead to negotiate bilateral trade agreements that will protect and encourage employment in the U.S. This statement leaves the door open for a possible bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the European Union that could favor imports into the world's largest market of the kind of high-end shoes that are produced in Europe.

New Balance, the only major athletic footwear brand that is still assembling shoes in the U.S. at its five factories in New England, had been critical of the TPP. An executive of the company told The Wall Street Journal that “things are going to move in the right direction” following Trump's election, triggering a highly publicized campaign against the brand in the social media. People were seen burning their New Balance shoes.