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Industry Imports Rise in April

Overall U.S. trade deficit widens in the month.

WASHINGTON — Driven by double-digit increases in shipments from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, apparel and textile imports rose 0.8 percent to 4.3 billion square meter equivalents in April compared with a year earlier, while goods deliveries from China fell.

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Apparel imports increased 3.2 percent to 1.8 billion SME in April compared with April 2012, as textile imports fell 0.8 percent to 2.5 billion SME, according to a monthly trade report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

Imports from China, the top supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S., dropped 7 percent in April to 1.8 billion SME. Apparel imports from China were down 8.3 percent to 616 million SME, while textile imports declined 6.2 percent to 1.2 billion SME. China, which has seen rising labor costs chase some business away, was the only country that posted a decline in April in combined shipments.

Combined shipments from Pakistan were up 18.6 percent to 221 million SME, while combined imports from India rose 15.6 percent to 315 million SME, and combined imports from Bangladesh advanced 14.5 percent to 168 million SME.

Somewhat surprisingly, Bangladesh posted the largest increase in apparel imports in April compared with a year earlier, despite the controversy over fire and building safety in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Apparel imports from Bangladesh, the third-largest supplier of apparel to the U.S., posted double-digit increases of 18.6 percent to 138 million SME in April compared with a year earlier.

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Several industry officials have said they expect to see companies shift business out of Bangladesh in the wake of the recent tragedies, but the U.S. government’s import data lags by two months, so it will take time for any potential downturn in imports from Bangladesh to be reflected.

“The April number should be the first number we start to see reflect any response to the Tazreen fire back in November,” said Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, adding that he was surprised to see gains instead.

Julia Hughes, president of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said, “If you look at the month, we can make the presumption that some of the decline from China is reflected in growth [of apparel imports] from Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.”

While not yet a major player, apparel imports from Indonesia rose 11.5 percent to 124 million SME in April compared with a year earlier.

The overall U.S. trade deficit widened to $40.3 billion in April from $37.1 billion in March.

“Imports rebounded from their March slump, rising 2.4 percent,” said Gregory Daco, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight. “Consumer goods led the charge, rebounding 7.2 percent after a 9.2 percent collapse in March.”