WASHINGTON — China bumped out Canada as the number two supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S. on an annual basis, as it continued to dominate imports in July, the Commerce Department’s trade figures revealed Wednesday.

Apparel and textile imports from China surged 124 percent in the month and 55 percent to 3.3 billion square meters equivalent for the year ending July. Mexico remains the number one supplier of textile and apparel to the U.S., although China is nipping at its heels.

Overall, textile and apparel imports rose 25 percent in July to 3.72 billion SME. Textile imports mushroomed 38 percent to 1.97 billion SME, while apparel imports posted a 14 percent increase to 1.74 billion SME.

For the year-to-date, total imports of apparel and textiles rose 11 percent, with textiles posting a 22 percent increase and apparel posting a 0.5 percent gain against the year-ago period.

"This is the largest increase in textile imports I’ve seen since 1995," said Donald Foote, director of the agreements division for Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

China dominated in textile growth, accounting for 40 percent of July’s increase, according to Foote. The other countries accounting for the rest of the growth include South Korea, Pakistan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, India, Taiwan and Turkey.

Almost half of China’s surge came in man-made fiber luggage, handbags and man-made fiber home furnishings, primarily curtains, he said. Other major products from China were cotton luggage, handbags and travel and sports bags.

For apparel, which returned to double-digit growth in July, China and Vietnam lead the pack, taking up 44 percent of the month’s import growth between them.

China has continued to consume market share in several categories in which quotas were lifted on Jan. 1. They include: man-made fiber sheets, blankets and curtains, cotton towels, handbags and travel/sport bags, nonwoven fabric, coated fabric and tire cord, knit fabric and man-made fiber textured yarn.

These surges recently prompted the American Textile Manufacturers Institute to ask Commerce officials to stem the flood of five textile product imports from China — the first such request filed under a special deal China made to secure its World Trade Organization membership.ATMI is asking for import quota on Chinese bras, knit fabric, gloves, nightwear and luggage, all of which had quotas either wholly or partially removed on Jan. 1, as part of the third stage of global quota phaseout. CITA is currently reviewing the request.

"China is killing everyone, including the U.S." said Cass Johnson, associate vice president of trade at ATMI.

He claimed the 23 import categories in which quotas were removed accounted for an increase of 900 million SME into the U.S. through June.

Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, who opposes reimposing quotas on Chinese imports, said it’s no surprise China is the dominant force.

"Quotas worked to hold China’s access down," Hughes said. "The quota program had the perverse effect of spreading out sourcing."

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