WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports to the U.S. from China and Vietnam increased in September, but shipments from the other top suppliers continued to decline.

This story first appeared in the November 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Friday that imports from China gained 3.2 percent to 2.2 billion square meter equivalents, driven by a rise in apparel shipments. Apparel imports from China grew 12.1 percent to 1.1 billion SME, and textile shipments fell 4.4 percent to 1.1 billion SME.

Textile imports from Vietnam helped propel an increase in total textile and apparel shipments of 14.3 percent to 199 million SME. Textile shipments to the U.S. from Vietnam spiked 116.8 percent in September to 54 million SME; apparel imports dipped 3 percent to 144 million SME. Vietnam was also the only top textile and apparel supplier to increase shipments to the U.S. for the year-to-date period, rising 20.5 percent to 1.6 billion SME.

Shipments of textiles and apparel from most countries to the U.S. declined in September. Imports from Honduras, where a coup in June disrupted production, fell 24.3 percent to 87 million SME. Imports from Bangladesh declined 15.3 percent to 139 million SME, and shipments from South Korea decreased 14.3 percent to 127 million SME. Imports from Canada dropped 14.4 percent to 105 million SME, while shipments from Mexico fell 13.3 percent to 193 million SME.

Total imports of textiles and apparel to the U.S. were off 6 percent to 4.4 billion SME in September. The volume of imports was higher than any other month this year, but it was still the slowest September since 2004. Apparel imports were down 4.8 percent to 2.2 billion SME, and textile imports fell 7.2 percent to 2.2 billion SME.

The top five apparel suppliers to the U.S. in September were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and Indonesia. China was also the top textile supplier, followed by Pakistan, India, South Korea and Mexico.

The nation’s overall trade deficit widened in September to $36.5 billion from $30.8 billion the previous month, driven by an import surge.

“Rising trade volumes signal economic recovery, which is good news,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. “However, the widening deficit is a warning that as U.S. domestic demand increases, imports will bounce more than exports. That means that the trade deficit will keep widening and that trade will be a drag on growth.”

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