By and  on December 15, 2005

WASHINGTON — Imports of Chinese apparel and textiles swelled 41.1 percent in October to 1.5 billion square meter equivalents valued at $1.9 billion, as the manufacturing powerhouse kept picking up market share.

Apparel and textiles imports contributed to a record U.S. trade deficit of $68.9 billion for the month. China made up $20.5 billion of that figure.

Total global apparel and textile imports in October rose 9.3 percent from a year earlier to 4.5 billion SME, worth $8 billion, according to the Commerce Department's monthly report on trade. China's much faster growth came at the expense of countries such as South Korea and Canada.

Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, said the deficit is likely to worsen in the months ahead. That means more Americans will leave the manufacturing sector for lower-paying and less-productive jobs, future growth will be hampered by a reduction in spending on research and development, and the nation's debt will continue to pile up, he said.

"You can live well today, but in the future you're going to be poorer," he said. "By not dealing with this issue, [President] George Bush is trading away textile jobs in the Southeast to Chinese people who did not elect him."

China's fashion industry has advantages beyond its large pool of low-cost labor, such as a broad base ranging from cotton farmers to textile and apparel manufacturers. U.S. textile firms and many lawmakers claim Chinese firms also have an unfair edge as a result of currency policies that make their goods less expensive in the global market and hefty state subsidies.

Along with other apparel and textile producers such as Pakistan and India, China also got a boost because the World Trade Organization eliminated quotas among 149 member nations on Jan. 1. However, the U.S. in May began imposing safeguard quotas, which China agreed to as a condition of joining the WTO in 2001.

A U.S.-Sino deal signed last month ensures that more than $6 billion worth of annual imports from China will remain under quota until the end of 2008. That restraint should help other countries solidify their import increases. Behind China, Pakistan posted the second-largest import rise by volume in October, shipping 43.9 million SME more than a year ago to 297.4 million SME, worth $248.9 million. Rounding out the top three, India's apparel and textile imports jumped by 40.8 million SME to 212.6 million SME, worth $413 million.

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