By  on August 13, 2009

WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports to the U.S. in June fell for the sixth consecutive month, with Vietnam showing the only significant increase in shipments.

The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Wednesday that imports of apparel and textiles to the U.S. declined 10.3 percent to 3.8 billion square meter equivalents in June compared with a year earlier, but still represented the highest monthly volume gain for the combined import categories so far this year.

Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh were the only countries that showed overall growth in apparel and textile imports in June. Vietnam increased shipments 29 percent to 190 million SME, driven by a sizable growth in textiles. Apparel and textile imports from Vietnam in the first six months increased 1.5 percent to $2.48 billion compared with the year-ago period. Shipments from Pakistan increased 8.5 percent to 248 million SME in June compared with a year earlier, while imports from Bangladesh were up 2.2 percent to 131 million SME.

Shipments of textiles and apparel from China fell 4.2 percent to 1.7 billion SME in June compared with a year earlier. The figure was held down by declining textile import levels. Apparel shipments from China, however, increased 16.2 percent to 721 million SME.

Among the countries with the largest declines in textile and apparel imports were Honduras — where a military coup at the end of June created political turmoil — posting a decrease of 29.3 percent to 97 million SME in June compared with a year earlier, and South Korea, which saw its shipments slip 22.2 percent to 110 million SME.

The top five apparel suppliers to the U.S. in June 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 deficit widened to $27 billion in June from $26 billion in May, as oil import volume and prices increased.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report Wednesday with recommendations on how to boost textile and apparel imports for countries granted trade preferences under the African Growth & Opportunity Act, also known as AGOA. The GAO did its study because “according to U.S. government officials, sub-Saharan Africa’s textile and apparel industry has not achieved the growth anticipated under [AGOA].”

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a trip to the region this month, where Kirk recommended the African countries diversify their exports away from too heavy a reliance on textiles. Among the sub-Saharan countries participating in AGOA, textile and apparel imports from Kenya in June increased 32.5 percent to 7 million SME, while shipments from Cameroon increased 283.3 percent to 1 million SME. Shipments from Swaziland fell 52.4 percent to 1 million SME and imports from Lesotho fell 38.6 percent to 4 million SME.

The GAO recommended AGOA benefits be extended beyond 2015 when the current act is set to expire, the third-country fabric provision for least developed countries under the program be extended beyond 2012 and trade capacity efforts like funding for regional trade hubs and market promotion be increased.

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