By  on January 13, 2005

WASHINGTON — China increased its share of U.S. textile and apparel imports in November, primarily in categories that weren’t under quota last year, helping to drive the highest November and 11-month import period on record, the Commerce Department said.

The trade report statistics were announced Wednesday as U.S. Customs & Border Protection, which refused entry this month to apparel and textile products that were shipped over their quota limits in 2004, said it will begin Jan. 24 to allow a staged entry for three Chinese categories under safeguard quotas. This includes bras, dressing gowns and robes, and knit fabric.

While worldwide imports of textiles and apparel to the U.S. rose 19.3 percent to 3.8 billion square meters equivalent in November, Chinese exports to the U.S. went up 34.6 percent to 959 million SME.

In the first 11 months of the year, global textiles and apparel imports increased 10.8 percent compared with the same period last year to 43 billion SME. Imports from China during the same period soared 43 percent to 10.7 billion SME.

China continued to post the biggest import gains and dominate in categories that were not under quota last year, such as quilts and comforters, tablecloths and napkins, man-made fiber woven bags, luggage and infants’ wear.

The trade data lags by a month and a lot has changed in global apparel and textile commerce since November. On Jan. 1, the World Trade Organization’s 148 member nations lifted quotas on apparel and textile trade.

The report came as China safeguard petitions seeking to limit imports and save U.S. jobs are the subject of a federal lawsuit and a temporary injunction.

China’s share of all U.S. apparel and textile imports grew to 24.8 percent for the year ended Nov. 30. Its share of U.S. textile imports rose to 31.9 percent during that period, while its share of all U.S. apparel imports rose to 15 percent.

“Getting the safeguard petitions unstuck and moving forward as quickly as possible is imperative to the health of the U.S. textile industry and the rest of the world’s textile industries,” said a spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, one of the lead groups that filed 12 China safeguard petitions.Several foreign suppliers posted significant increases in their apparel and textile exports to the U.S. in November.

On a volume basis, Pakistan posted the largest increase in imports of 37.1 million SME, or 18.4 percent, with growth primarily in bedspreads, carded cotton yarn and combed cotton yarn and cotton sheets. Imports from India rose 33.9 percent, or 35 million SME, primarily in carpets, tablecloths, luggage, man-made fiber woven bags and woven cotton blouses and cotton robes and dressing gowns.

Imports from Vietnam rose 83.9 percent, or 31 million SME, driven by increases in nonwoven fabric, man-made fiber woven bags, cotton trousers and man-made fiber trousers and knit fabric, while imports from Mexico increased 8.5 percent, or 25.6 million SME. Imports from Bangladesh, which have declined in recent months, went up 41.7 percent or 24.49 million SME and imports from Indonesia had a boost of 28.6 percent or 23.5 million SME.

“What the numbers really show is that not all of the growth is going to China,” said Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel.

The AMTAC spokesman, however, said companies shifted business around late in the year because of rapidly filling quota limits.

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