By  on September 14, 2005

WASHINGTON — The growth of Chinese apparel and textile imports into the U.S. maintained a fast pace in July, as the U.S. and China remained deadlocked over a comprehensive import restraint agreement.

Textile and apparel imports from China rose 41.7 percent to 1.54 billion square meters equivalent in July versus a year earlier, far outpacing total global growth of 105 million SMEs and contributing to the second-highest volume of imports for any month on record, according to Ross Arnold, international trade specialist at the Commerce Department's Office of Textiles & Apparel.

Apparel imports from China in July gained 338 million SMEs to 645 million SMEs, while total apparel imports from the world rose 101 million SMEs to 1.99 billion SMEs. On the textile front, imports from China grew by 117 million SMEs to 901 million SMEs, while textile imports from the world inched up by 3 million SMEs to 2.35 billion SMEs.

The U.S. and China have failed to cement a deal on a broad agreement to restrict imports of apparel and textiles after four rounds of negotiations. A fifth round could be slated for the end of the month. Quotas were dropped this year among all World Trade Organization countries, but China's WTO ascension agreement allowed countries to impose safeguard quotas on its goods through 2008.

U.S. retail, importer and textile executives all agree on the need for a long-term deal to replace the system of safeguard quotas, which leave uncertainty in sourcing plans, but they differ on what the deal should contain. The U.S. has put forward a deal that would hold a wide range of categories to a low growth rate through 2008, while China wants higher growth on a narrower group of goods through 2007. Safeguard quotas are set at 7.5 percent annual growth.

"What the numbers show is that China remains as big a threat as ever," said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations. "The Chinese government said the surge earlier in the year was a blip, but these numbers prove it was not."

Johnson said the industry will continue to file new safeguards soon, seeking a reapplication of all of the current safeguards, most of which expire at the end of the year.

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