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Imports Fall in August, Trade Gap Narrows

Vietnam posted the only increase among major suppliers.

WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports to the U.S. continued their long decline in August, with Vietnam posting the only increase among major suppliers.

This story first appeared in the October 12, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Friday industry imports fell 9.8 percent to 4.2 billion square meter equivalents in August compared with a year earlier. The total volume of imports of textiles and apparel to the U.S. in August was the highest for any month this year, but in year-over-year comparisons imports have been declining since February 2008.

Apparel imports fell 6.4 percent to 2 billion SME and textile imports dropped 12.7 percent to 2.2 billion SME.

Shipments from Vietnam increased 15.7 percent to 203 million SME, fueled by a 94.2 percent increase in textile shipments to 54 million SME. Apparel imports from Vietnam grew 0.9 percent to 149 million SME.

Imports of textiles and apparel from China dropped 0.7 percent to 2.1 billion SME in the month compared with August 2008. Apparel imports from China increased 9.1 percent for the month to 961 million SME, while textile imports from China fell 8 percent to 1.1 billion SME.

Honduras, where a coup staged in June has disrupted textile and apparel production, reported a drop in imports of 28.7 percent to 82 million SME. Significant declines were also posted by South Korea and Pakistan, which declined 27.8 percent to 106 million SME and 20.6 percent to 222 million SME, respectively.

In contrast, apparel imports from a few countries showed signs of resilience. In addition to an increase in shipments from China, Indonesia’s apparel imports were up 4.9 percent to 92 million SME. Apparel imports from India increased 3.9 percent to 66 million SME.

The top five apparel suppliers to the U.S. in August 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 overall trade deficit narrowed to $30.7 billion in August from $31.9 billion the previous month, according to the Commerce Department, driven primarily by oil trends.

“The trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in August,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. “We expect the trade deficit to widen over the rest of the year as U.S. imports should pick up faster than exports as the domestic inventory cycle turns.”

While signs of recovery have yet to significantly impact the textile and apparel industry, officials said the overall trade picture was improving.

“Exports of goods and services increased in August for a fourth consecutive month,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “We’re encouraged by the continued signs that the U.S. and other major economies are beginning to expand again, but we must remain steadfast in our efforts to boost U.S. exports and put Americans back to work.”