By and  on January 13, 2006

WASHINGTON — China dominated the apparel and textile import scene again in November, with a 37.7 percent jump over a year earlier to 1.3 billion square meter equivalents, worth $1.5 billion.

The imports contributed to an overall trade deficit of $18.5 billion with China for the month, which pushed the total deficit with the country to a record $185.3 billion for the first 11 months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

"The only way to rein in the job-destroying trade deficit is for the U.S. government to demonstrate to the Chinese that they will not get unlimited access to our market when they use unfair trade practices to run U.S. industry out of business," Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, said in a statement.

AMTAC, along with other business groups and many Capitol Hill lawmakers, claims China maintains an unfair advantage by keeping its currency undervalued and subsidizing its banking and industrial sectors.

The dramatic growth came even though the U.S. clamped down on imports with safeguard quotas on goods ranging from cotton trousers to man-made fiber knit shirts. China's advance in the month came in a variety of areas not covered by the safeguards, including headwear, scarves and shawls, women's and girls' cotton coats and man-made fiber woven bags. Taken on their own, apparel imports from the country shot up 68.3 percent in November to 417.4 million SME, valued at $873.3 million.

The safeguards have since expired and were replaced by an agreement that restricts imports of 34 kinds of apparel and textile imports from China until the end of 2008. Domestic textile groups, such as AMTAC, are looking for a way to extend restraints on China beyond 2008.

Importers, on the other hand, see many virtues in buying goods from China, which has become a highly efficient apparel producer.

"The advent of China as an even bigger player in apparel and textiles has a lot of potential benefit for consumers because those lower costs are going to be pushed through the pipeline," said Andrew Bernard, professor of international economics at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

Apparel and textile imports from the world rose 9.2 percent in November to 4.2 billion SME, worth $7 billion, indicating China's growth continues to come at the expense of other nations, such as Taiwan and South Korea.Also winning out in the post-quota market-share rush in November were Pakistan, with a 27.7 percent increase in imports to 305.4 million SME, worth $275.4 million, and India, with a 41.2 percent rise to 195.7 million SME, valued at $377.5 million.

Losing share in the U.S. marketplace were Taiwan, down 26.2 percent to 76.6 million SME, worth $116.9 million, and South Korea, which dropped 11.6 percent to 184 million SME, valued at $148.1 million.

In other trade news, Chinese footwear exporters suffered a major setback Thursday when European Union member states backed a proposal to not grant market economy status to Chinese companies in a dumping investigation.

A 681 percent surge in imports of Chinese footwear in the first four months of 2005, accompanied by an average 28 percent drop in prices, prompted calls from Italy, Spain and France for trade measures and resulted in the launching of an investigation last summer. European retail industry representatives fear the move increases the prospects the investigation, which must deliver a preliminary determination by April 6, will slap hefty punitive antidumping duties and trigger a substantial price hike.

Trade diplomats said the move weakens the chances of the Chinese manufacturers successfully rebutting the charges that they dumped footwear at reduced prices in the EU. Without market status, investigators have "lots of leeway" to construct a price that they consider is the normal cost of production or normal value. The more the import price is below this constructed value, the higher the dumping margin slapped, trade officials said.

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