Donald Trump sought cheap labor overseas for clothing lines

Trump sought cheap labor overseas for clothing line
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Trump sought cheap labor overseas for clothing line 04:21

Story highlights

  • Clothing bearing Donald Trump's name is produced abroad in countries with very low wages
  • Trump has opposed trade deals and been critical of China

(CNN)Donald Trump may claim to have the backs of U.S. workers, but when it comes to making shirts for those backs, Trump has chosen to make his shirts overseas.

The Republican presidential candidate's campaign rhetoric starkly contrasts the practices of his own fashion business, which experts say has followed the path of many other clothing makers by jumping from country to country in search of the lowest wages and cheapest production costs.
    The Donald J. Trump Collection is a line of men's dress shirts, suits, ties and accessories, all of which have been made by factories overseas, where labor costs are a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S.
    Trump cut a deal with the global apparel giant PVH to manufacture his clothes in 2004. And ever since the Donald J. Trump Collection has been produced by factories in Central America and Asia, then shipped to the U.S. for sale in stores and online.
    Scott Nova, an executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights group that investigates the garment industry, says there is one reason clothes are made overseas: cheap labor.
    "If a company were committed to producing clothing in the U.S., they could find a way," Nova said, but he added, "The competition is to find the lowest wages you can possibly get."
    Trump's clothing line has fallen on hard times since his comments concerning Mexicans and Muslims in the early primaries led to retail giant Macy's dropping the Trump clothing line. And Trump's manufacturer, PVH, has said it is phasing out its licensing agreement with Trump.
    But you can still find Donald J.Trump signature brand clothes on the internet, though apparently at drastically reduced prices. CNN purchased several Trump brand items online including a $16.95 dress shirt made in Bangladesh, a $166.88 pinstripe suit made in Indonesia, and even a dollar-shaped tie clip made in China bought for $24.
    Sizes and colors were extremely limited, suggesting the Trump clothing brand is at the end of its line. But the Trump campaign refused to directly answer if Trump's clothing business is shutting down.
    Shipping documents obtained by CNN show that in 2014 Trump shirts were shipped to the U.S. from a factory in Honduras, where nationally the average factory worker earns about $1.30 an hour. Even that hourly wage may have been too high for Trump's licensed manufacturer. The Honduran factory's contract ended in 2015.
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    That same year, shipping forms obtained by CNN show Trump shirts were being manufactured and shipped from Bangladesh, where the average factory worker makes just 33 cents an hour, according to Nova. CNN cannot determine if the people making Trump's clothing were paid a different amount or the conditions they were working under.
    Bangladesh "has the lowest wages and the worst and most unsafe working conditions of any major apparel exporting country," Nova said.
    Jeff Danzer, the former vice president of the company that brokered the deal between Trump and PVH, said that in 2004 Trump wanted to find a company that upheld best practices and produced quality clothes at a competitive price, but Danzer says Trump did not stress the clothes should be American-made.
    "He didn't say anything about where it should be manufactured," Danzer told CNN.
    Donald Trump defends his 'Made in China' ties
    Donald Trump defends his 'Made in China' ties

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    Donald Trump defends his 'Made in China' ties 01:45
    Trump has had to answer questions during the primary campaign about the decision to manufacture his clothing overseas. He told CNN's Jake Tapper that his ties were manufactured in China "because they have manipulated their currency to such a point that it's impossible for our companies to compete."
    The Trump campaign also sent CNN this statement: "Mr. Trump has had a relatively small, but extremely successful clothing business. He has been very open about the fact that most of these products are unfortunately not manufactured in the United States due to the extreme currency manipulation by countries like China that make it nearly impossible to compete and manufacture these products in America."
    CNN's Reality Check team found that the Trump campaign statement is false. It is not true that China manipulates its currency to benefit manufacturers; Chinese currency has actually strengthened in the past 10 years.