Is fast fashion slowing down? How global trade is being used as a ‘force for good’

Amid U.S.-China tensions, trade regulations and consumer demands have brought human rights into sharp focus. USC experts discuss how the global textile industry is changing.


In the world of fast fashion, where trends are born as quickly as they are discarded, global trade regulations have struggled to keep pace with relentless cycles of production and consumption. 

In attempting to meet the demands of this fast-paced sector, global trade has historically failed to address the troubling reality hiding behind the industry’s glamorous façade: a supply chain tainted by human rights abuses and forced labor. 

But experts say that’s changing. 

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began enforcing the standards for manufacturing and trade under the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act to crack down on Asian goods that U.S. officials suspect are the product of forced labor by imprisoned ethnic minorities. Those include the Uyghurs, whose maltreatment has been extensively documented.  

The United States has banned a large number of garment imports from Vietnam, a major exporter of textiles. Companies there were found to be sourcing materials, including cotton, from manufacturers in China that the U.S. government believes violated trade and labor standards.

“We have a calling to use trade as a force for good, advocating for fairness creating real opportunity for all of our people,” said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai at a “Dean’s Dialogue” with Dean Geoffrey Garrett of the USC Marshall School of Business at Town and Gown on the University Park Campus in May. 

“There are substantial challenges in the relationship,” said Tai, referring to the U.S. and China. “The People’s Republic of China’s growth and development over the last few decades have been phenomenal, but the impacts, and especially the negative impacts on other economies — including ours — are having consequences that we cannot ignore.” 

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“Beyond the quest for lucrative expansion in new and existing foreign markets, the industry must redefine its success parameters. We must transition from a single bottom-line approach to a triple bottom line that includes profit, people, and the planet,” Vyas said.



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