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Country Highlights

Northern Mariana Islands: Garment Manufacturing Industry

The garment manufacturing industry in the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has historically been a major component of the economy, accounting for a significant portion of economic activity and exports. However— the industry has faced substantial challenges in recent years, leading to a decline in its once robust status.

The elimination of global textile quotas in 2005 made it more difficult for the CNMI to compete with larger, more efficient producers, resulting in a sharp decline in the garment industry. The CNMI’s garment industry has also faced increased foreign competition due to recent changes in U.S. trade law, impacting its international competitiveness.

Despite these challenges, the garment manufacturing industry in the Northern Mariana Islands continues to offer business opportunities, particularly through duty-free and quota-free access to the U.S. mainland, which has historically attracted investors from Korea, China, and the Philippines, making the industry a major component of the CNMI’s economy. However—the employment practices in the factories have been criticized, with allegations of sweatshop-like working conditions. The U.S. government has taken steps to improve conditions for workers, indicating a growing emphasis on labor standards and worker welfare.

The decline of the garment industry has led to a need for economic diversification and the exploration of new business opportunities in the CNMI. The industry’s challenges have underscored the importance of identifying and developing alternative economic sectors to reduce the CNMI’s reliance on garment manufacturing. As a result, the CNMI has been exploring opportunities to expand and diversify its economy, with a focus on sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and other forms of manufacturing. This shift presents an opportunity for the CNMI to attract new investments and foster the development of a more diverse and resilient economy.

While the garment manufacturing industry in the CNMI has historically been a significant economic driver, it has faced challenges that have led to a decline in its status. However, the CNMI is actively seeking to diversify its economy and explore new business opportunities, presenting potential for investment and growth in alternative sectors. This transition reflects a broader effort to adapt to changing economic conditions and reduce the CNMI’s reliance on a single industry.

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