WASHINGTON — China accounted for the majority of U.S. apparel and textile import growth in August and the first eight months of the year, according to the Commerce Department’s trade report. The new statistics were released as the Bush administration reviews the first petitions that seek to curb Chinese imports.

China’s 49.7 percent apparel and textile import gain in the month to 1.15 billion square meters equivalent compared with August 2003 represented 68 percent of the overall growth of shipments of such goods into the U.S. for the month.

“This is just a continuation of what has been happening over the past two years with China,’’ said Lloyd Wood, a spokesman for the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, which favors extending quotas. “There has been no change in the status quo, and the evidence out there gives us a strong case.’’

Global imports of textiles rose 20.9 percent in August to 2.39 billion SME compared with the same period last year, while imports of apparel rose 8.3 percent to 1.9 billion SME. The twin categories saw global imports rise 15 percent to 4.3 billion SME in August.

For the year ended Aug. 31, imports of textiles and apparel from China jumped 49.67 percent to 10.73 billion SME, compared with a 10.1 percent increase to 45.24 billion SME from all other countries.

China’s share of apparel and textile imports to the U.S. was 23.7 percent for the 12 months ending Aug. 31. It had been 14.1 percent of apparel imports and 30.7 percent of textile imports.

Several countries, including India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil and Pakistan, showed strong penetration in the U.S., reflecting what many experts say will be the consolidation of sourcing in a post-quota world. Imports in August rose 68.3 percent from Brazil, 50.2 percent from Cambodia, 32.9 percent from Vietnam, 22.7 percent from India and 7.1 percent from Mexico.

Many other suppliers had major decreases in apparel and textile imports for the month: Russia posted a 52.2 percent decline, Israel had a 41.5 percent drop, the Philippines had a 10.45 percent decline and Taiwan had a 5.95 percent decrease.

The U.S. and 147 other members of the World Trade Organization are set to eliminate quotas on apparel and textiles on Jan.1. The prospect of China dominating global trade in the sectors has prompted a coalition of textile and apparel industry groups to pressure the Bush administration to curb that growth.

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Council of Textile Organizations, National Cotton Council, SEAMS, American Fiber Manufacturers Association and UNITE HERE filed five China safeguard petitions covering 10 categories this week, with a combined import value of about $1.1 billion in 2003.

The coalition is targeting a total of about $1.96 billion in imports from China for continued quota restraints in an anticipated wave of 13 petitions covering 21 categories. The groups plan to file another five petitions in the next several days and request an extension of the China safeguards in place on five categories represented in three petitions.

“China is almost up to a 31 percent share of U.S. textile imports on a year-ending basis and the year-ending numbers in categories no longer under quota are through the roof,” said AMTAC’s Wood.

Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said the industry coalition will have a difficult time proving there is a threat of market disruption based on the import figures released Thursday.

“If many of the import categories are declining, that means China is not flooding the market,” he said.

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said that one reason many of the import categories the coalition has targeted are declining is that China is “spacing out its shipments more efficiently this year, and so year-to-year comparisons are really not the best way to measure its growth.”

China is close to filling every quota category on which petitions have been filed except for women’s and men’s cotton trousers, reflecting its enormous capacity, he said.

Burke acknowledged that a lot of apparel production has shifted to China and more is expected. “The question is how much will move there in a relatively short period of time,” Burke said. “I can’t count any of the AAFA’s members that will put all of their business in China.”