WASHINGTON — China continued to dominate apparel and textile trade with the U.S. in May, boosting imports of those categories by 52.4 percent over a year ago to 1.5 billion square meter equivalents.
U.S. apparel and textile imports from all countries rose 14.2 percent to 4.2 billion SME.
China's 304 million SME increase for the month made up the lion's share of the overall 332 million SME rise from the world, indicating the country continues to take share from other nations since the World Trade Organization dropped quotas in January.
The U.S. trade deficit with the world in all goods and services unexpectedly narrowed in May to $55.3 billion from a revised $56.9 billion in April. Trade with China ran counter to the trend and produced a deficit of $15.8 billion, up from $14.7 billion in April.
Specifically, apparel imports from China in May shot up 157.6 percent to 496 million SME, while imports from the world, including China, were up 24.2 percent to 1.7 billion SME.
On the textile side, imports from China grew by 26.4 percent to 983 million SME in May, while worldwide imports rose 8.3 percent to 2.5 billion SME.
"China is using unfair trade practices to not only drive everybody else in the world out of business, but they're using them to drive us out of business," said a spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.
China has been accused of undervaluing its currency, which reduces the costs of exporting from the country, and supporting its industries with other subsidies that give them an unfair edge.
The U.S. textile industry, including AMTAC, has successfully petitioned the Bush administration to restrict imports from China with safeguard quotas. So far, $1.31 billion worth of imports in seven categories are held to 7.5 percent annual growth under safeguards and more requests have been filed. In addition to six other petitions outstanding, domestic concerns recently filed for safeguards on another $944 million in imports, in four petitions filed this week and one filed last month.
Already four of the seven categories put under safeguards in May are embargoed or within days of being cut off. Among them are cotton knit shirts and blouses, imports of which were up 2,404 percent in May, and cotton trousers, which leaped 2,025 percent.China, which already cut a deal with the European Union to restrict shipments to 8 to 12.5 percent annual growth levels for a swath of categories, has been pushing for a similar comprehensive textile agreement with the U.S. Top trade officials from both sides met in Beijing on Monday, but neither reported any progress.
Importers, which have lobbied against the safeguards, have argued that the overall level of imports hasn't increased that dramatically and that the post-quota world is simply funneling production toward the regions that can handle it more efficiently.
"Overall imports are not up higher than the traditional increase," said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel. "If overall imports aren't up that high, that probably is a good sign that we're getting through this transition year."
Other countries shipping more apparel and textile goods to the U.S. in May were India, up 36.7 percent to 207 million SME; Pakistan, up 19.1 percent to 291 million SME, and Bangladesh, up 37 percent to 101 million SME.
Among those losing ground were Canada, which fell 10 percent to 257 million SME; South Korea, which was down 12.6 percent to 154 million SME, and Taiwan, which saw imports decline by 19.1 percent to 80 million SME.
On a broader stage, trade officials reported incremental progress on agricultural issues at meetings in Dalian, China, on Wednesday. The meetings were aimed at energizing the World Trade Organization's Doha round of trade talks, which seeks to reduce global tariffs and has been stalled for more than two years.
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