Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — The import surge continued at full strength in July.
Powered by soaring shipments from China and Mexico, U.S. textile and apparel imports in July jumped 22.2 percent over a year ago and set an all-time record for any month, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
July’s combined apparel and textile imports of 2.17 billion square meters equivalent also marked the 11th consecutive month of double-digit import hikes.
Record levels furthermore were reached for these imports during the first seven months of the year, up 22 percent to 12.94 billion SME, and for the 12-month period of the year ending July, up 18.1 percent to 21.39 billion SME.
Apparel imports jumped 18.9 percent in July to 1.14 billion SME and were up 17.6 percent to 6.33 billion SME for the first seven months. They rose 14.8 percent to 10.61 billion SME for the year ended in July.
Textile imports soared in July, up 26.1 percent to 1.03 billion SME and for the first seven months, up 26.4 percent to 6.61 billion SME. For the year ending July, textile imports jumped 21.6 percent to 10.79 billion SME.
About 80 percent of the import increases for the year-to-date can be accounted for by nine textile product categories and seven apparel categories. The major shippers in these groups include China and the nations with which the U.S. maintains preferential trade relations: Mexico and Canada and the Caribbean Basin nations.
Within the textile sector, for example, China’s shipments here of cotton poplin and broadcloth grew almost exponentially — up 939 percent to 51.7 million SME for the first seven months of this year, compared with the same period a year ago. Its exports to the U.S. of cotton print cloth jumped 53 percent to 105 million SME for the first seven months. China’s shipments of silk and man-made fiber luggage also rose by triple-digit percentages to 162.5 million SME in the same period.
Canada, a U.S. free trade partner, was a very significant source for the importation of cotton and man-made fiber nonwoven and knit fabrics, and cotton carded yarn, accounting for about one-fourth of the total growth of these imports in the first seven months of this year.
On the apparel side, Mexico — the U.S.’s other free trade partner — was represented in virtually every product category responsible for the surge in U.S. imports. Some examples: Mexico’s shipments here of cotton men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ trousers jumped by 34 percent for the year-to-date to about 179 million SME. Its exports here of all types of man-made fiber trousers jumped by 67 percent to 61.6 million SME for the year-to-date.
Mexico also shipped to the U.S. 116.1 million SME of man-made-fiber knit shirts for men and women during the first seven months of this year, up 23 percent from a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras continued on track as major suppliers of imported apparel. Caribbean makers who use fabrics formed and cut in the U.S. may receive almost unlimited quotas and pay duties only on the value added during assembly.
El Salvador and Honduras, in particular, contributed to significant increases in shipments here of trousers and underwear. Some examples: Honduras’s exports to the U.S. of men’s cotton and man-made fiber knit shirts soared 117 percent to 70.7 million SME for the first seven months. El Salvador’s shipments of these shirts skyrocketed 177 percent to 42 million SME for the year to date, while its exports here of cotton and man-made fiber underwear jumped 91 percent in the same period to 88 million SME.

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