By  on June 11, 2009

WASHINGTON — Apparel shipments from China and Vietnam spiked in April, despite an overall decrease of textile and clothing imports to the U.S.

The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel on Wednesday said imports of apparel to the U.S. from China increased 15.5 percent to 524 million square meter equivalents in April compared with a year earlier. Shipments from Vietnam were up 9.6 percent for the month to 121 million SME.

Combined shipments of textiles and apparel to the U.S. from all trading partners in April dropped 9.7 percent to 3.62 billion SME. Apparel imports declined 8 percent to 1.52 billion SME, while textile shipments slipped 10.8 percent to 2.09 billion SME. April marked the 12th consecutive monthly decline in year-to-year import comparisons.

“It is evident from today’s trade data that our global community is facing a difficult economic environment,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “Now more than ever, we should strengthen, not weaken, our economic ties with the world community, because international trade can and will help drive the world’s economic recovery.”

China’s overall shipments of textiles and apparel to the U.S. were dragged down by falling textile figures, the Commerce Department office noted. Combined shipments dropped 1.2 percent to 1.53 billion SME.

Countries reporting significant declines in April included Mexico, Honduras and Pakistan. Apparel and textile shipments from Mexico fell 28.3 percent to 176 million SME, Pakistan’s combined shipments dropped 12.8 percent to 210 million SME and imports from Honduras plummeted 37.3 percent to 68 million SME.

Vietnam continued to show overall growth, increasing its April apparel and textile shipments to the U.S. by 23.2 percent in 12-month comparisons to 160 million SME. South Korea increased textile and apparel shipments 2.6 percent to 131 million SME. Combined textile and apparel imports to the U.S. from the other top 10 suppliers all declined in April.

The top five apparel shippers to the U.S. in April were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and Indonesia. China was also the top textile supplier, followed by Pakistan, India, South Korea and Mexico.

The nation’s trade gap widened slightly in April to $29.2 billion from $28.5 billion in March. Most of the increase was driven by oil imports, economists said.

“The April trade deficit was little changed from March, but the trade figures were disappointing in the sense that both export and import volumes tumbled again,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

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