Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — U.S. apparel imports from Mexico rose an astounding 73.6 percent in November against a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, signaling even more gains once the impact of the devalued peso comes into play.
The surge in Mexico’s shipments was a chief contributor to an overall gain of 8.4 percent in U.S. textile and apparel imports in November. Apparel from the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries was another big factor.
Total apparel imports in November were up 16 percent from a year ago to reach 696.3 million square meters equivalent. Textile imports for the month climbed only 1.8 percent to 706.4 million SME, marked by a sharp drop of 59.5 percent, or 63 million SME, from China.
During November, total apparel and textile imports reached 1.4 billion square meters equivalent, and for the first 11 months of 1994 they stood at 15.9 billion SME, up 8.9 percent from the comparable, year-ago period.
For 12 months ending in November, these imports totaled 17.1 billion SME, an 8.6 percent increase from a year ago.
In November, Mexico’s garment firms exported 50 million SME to the U.S. Significantly, November was the last full month before Mexico’s economic panic sent the peso plunging against the dollar. Analysts anticipate that when the January 1995 trade figures are released in March, U.S. apparel imports from Mexico almost certainly will surpass November’s record high shipments.
Right behind Mexico’s gains were the CBI apparel producers, whose shipments to the U.S. jumped 27 percent in November to 153 million SME.
Offsetting these gains somewhat was a 13.1 percent decline in shipments by China, to 55 million SME of apparel in November.
On a year-to-date basis, apparel imports were up 11.2 percent in November, to almost 7.8 billion SME. Here, too, the big newsmakers were Mexico, the CBI and China. No doubt assisted by the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in January, Mexican apparel exports to the U.S. soared 48.8 percent for the first 11 months compared with a year ago, to 441 million SME. Mexico, the U.S.’s fifth-largest foreign apparel supplier, accounted for 5.7 percent of all imports during the first 11 months of 1994.
In this same period, Mexico represented nearly one fifth of the increase in imports from the entire world.
The vast majority of Mexico’s 48.8 percent increase in shipments to the U.S. in the 11 months was concentrated in a few apparel categories. Its shipments to the U.S. of men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ man-made fiber knit shirts and blouses, category 638/639, rocketed upwards by 295 percent from the year-ago period to 59.6 million SME.
U.S. imports of Mexican-made cotton and man-made fiber underwear, category 352/652, jumped 55 percent to 71.6 million SME, and shipments of men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ cotton trousers, category 347/348, jumped 29 percent to 109.8 million SME.
Significantly, about 91 percent of all Mexican apparel imported during the first 11 months of 1994 met NAFTA origin rules and were shipped to the U.S. without duties or quotas, according to Donald Foote, director of the agreements division within Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.
Over the 11 months, U.S. apparel imports from the CBI nations rose nearly 14.6 percent to 1.4 billion SME. Most of this increase, too, was accounted for by substantially higher shipments of underwear, as well as trousers and shirts.
Meanwhile, China, whose apparel exports to the U.S. for the third quarter of 1994 were largely responsible for double-digit increases in overall apparel imports, saw these exports remain unchanged at 893 million SME for the first 11 months of 1994, compared with a year ago. Foote said embargoes that took effect in late summer and early fall on Chinese shipments of several cotton and silk product categories were responsible for reversing an import surge.
Textile imports for the year to date were up 6.8 percent to 8.1 billion SME. The lion’s share of this increase was due to sharply higher shipments by Canada and Mexico, which together accounted for about 45 percent of the entire increase during this period.
In the 12 months ended in November, textile imports rose 6.8 percent to 8.8 billion SME, while apparel imports totaled 8.3 billion SME, up 10.5 percent from a year ago.
— Fairchild News Service