By  on April 13, 2005

WASHINGTON — Apparel imports from China jumped a record 199 percent in February over a year ago as the U.S. is to begin reviewing 10 China safeguard petitions that seek to impose quotas on $2 billion worth of goods.

Worldwide textile and apparel imports to the U.S. rose 19.4 percent in February to 3.96 billion square meters equivalent as China’s combined shipments surged 105.8 percent to 1.27 billion SME, driving the month of February and the two-month period to record highs, said Ross Arnold, a Commerce Department international trade specialist.

The government data released Tuesday came amid complaints that imports from China — unrestrained since the nations of the World Trade Organization dropped quotas on Jan. 1 — are taking a heavy toll on manufacturers in the U.S. and in the developing world.

The February import data, based on a Census Bureau analysis, tracked closely with preliminary findings the Commerce Department released on April 4 as part of its new textile-monitoring system, which revealed imports from China exploded in key categories during the first three months of the year.

Census information provides a more in-depth analysis of the import statistics and includes revisions from the bureau of Customs & Border Protection, but it lags actual import of goods by six weeks. The next biweekly installment, covering March 27-April 9, is slated to be released today.

The flurry of statistics highlights China’s rising economic dominance and adds to the debate over whether its exports should be curtailed. The Bush administration took an unprecedented action last week, saying it would begin a self-initiated review of Chinese apparel and textile imports to consider whether to impose three safeguard quotas on $624.5 million worth of imported cotton knit shirts and blouses, cotton trousers, and cotton and man-made fiber underwear.

Building on that move, a coalition of U.S. textile and fiber producers filed seven China safeguard petitions seeking to put quota limits on $1.45 billion worth of shipments on products such as cotton and man-made fiber knit shirts, sweaters, bras and dressing gowns.

China’s share of U.S. textile and apparel imports grew to 30.8 percent in the first two months of 2005 on a volume basis. Its share of U.S. textile imports increased to 35.9 percent and its share of apparel imports rose to 24 percent. (See chart below for dollar-basis market share.)

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