By  on February 11, 2005

WASHINGTON — In the final year of the quota system in 2004, China easily outpaced all foreign suppliers and rapidly increased its share of the U.S. apparel and textile import market to 25 percent.

Imports to the U.S. from China last year helped drive the biggest rise in December apparel and textile volume, to 3.62 billion square meters equivalent, and year of shipments, which reached a record 46.6 billion SME, according to a Commerce Department report released Thursday. On a value basis, total apparel and textile imports rose to $82.8 billion from $77.43 billion in 2003.

The 148 member nations of the World Trade Organization lifted quotas on apparel and textile trade on Jan. 1 and the uncertainty surrounding such a big change in international trading rules has triggered widespread concern about China’s ability to decimate industries around the globe and in the U.S.

The U.S. Customs & Border Protection Bureau began staged entries on Jan. 24 for three Chinese categories under safeguard quotas, including bras, dressing gowns and robes, and knit fabric, that were shipped over their quota limits in 2004. The government is allowing in 5 percent of each embargoed category’s limits per month. For all other embargoed categories, Customs allowed in 5 percent, beginning in February.

Six embargoed categories were overshipped by more than 5 percent and Customs has again closed those categories. Imports of knit fabric and bras from China were closed until Feb. 24. Closed until March 1 were: sateen fabric from China; a group of products including yarns, fabrics, socks and underwear from India; cotton and man-made fiber underwear from Pakistan and shop towels from Pakistan.

While worldwide exports of textiles and apparel to the U.S. rose 10.4 percent in 2004 to 46.6 billion SME, Chinese exports to the U.S. increased 40.7 percent to 11.6 billion SME. China exported $14.5 billion worth of apparel and textiles to the U.S. in 2004 compared with $11.6 billion in 2003.

China’s share of U.S. textile imports went up to 32.2 percent during the year, while its share of all U.S. apparel imports rose to 15.1 percent. Commerce’s trade data also revealed the apparel and textile trade deficit with China deepened in 2004 by 25.3 percent to $17.5 billion. The overall textile and apparel trade deficit worsened to a record $73.1 billion, compared with $67.2 billion in 2003.

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