The 148 nations of the World Trade Organization removed quotas on apparel and textiles on Jan. 1 and the major issue remains whether China will dominate the industry. U.S. importers and retailers have said they will consolidate sourcing in fewer countries. One dire prediction from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions sees the 50 countries involved in the textile and apparel manufacturing sector dwindling to seven by 2007. China continues to increase its share of the U.S. import market, squeezing other foreign suppliers. A handful of countries, however, such as India, Pakistan and South Korea, posted significant growth in imports to the U.S. last year and are expected to stay competitive in a post-quota world.

  1. CHINA
    Year-to-date ended Nov. 30: 10.7 billion SME; Year-to-date change: 43.1 percent;
    Year-end share of U.S. import market: 24.8 percent

    China posted import gains as high as 1,000 percent, dominating nonquota categories such as quilts, tablecloths and infants’ wear. To alleviate concerns about its power, China levied a small tax on 148 export categories. Meanwhile, U.S. importers sued the government over its authority to impose China safeguards or temporary quotas. A federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the U.S. government from accepting or reviewing domestic safeguard petitions. The Justice Department said it will appeal the injunction.

    Year-to-date ended Nov. 30: 3.6 billion SME; Year-to-date change: 4.6 percent;
    Year-end share of U.S. import market: 8.8 percent

    Mexico has been losing U.S. import share since 2002. It isn’t clear whether the country will enjoy a trade advantage over China with the duty preferences it receives in the North American Free Trade Agreement and its proximity to the U.S. Mexico had a big increase in exports of non-woven fabric, a comeback in man-made fiber bags and a significant increase in quilts, comforters and curtains in 2004.

    Year-to-date ended Nov. 30: 3.08 billion SME; Year-to-date change: -1.7 percent;
    Year-end share of U.S. import market: 7 percent

    Canada had big increases in exports of nonwoven fabric and combed cotton yarn, but lost a significant portion of knit fabric exports. Canada is another unknown in the sourcing picture, although many observers claim it could maintain a competitive advantage against China due to investments in cutting-edge technologies, NAFTA benefits and proximity.

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