WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports jumped 13.2 percent in May compared with a year ago, led by sharply higher shipments from Mexico, Canada and Hong Kong, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
Imports of apparel were 16.2 percent higher than during the previous May, rising to 614 million square meters equivalent. For the first five months of this year, apparel imports rose 9.1 percent to 3.1 billion SME and were up 8.8 percent to 7.8 billion SME for the year ending in May.
During May, textile imports rose 10.7 percent from a year ago to 726.3 million SME. For the year to date, they were up 8.2 percent to 3.5 billion SME and were up 11.6 percent to 8.6 billion SME for the year ending in May.
Donald Foote, director of the agreements division with the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, said a reported raw-cotton shortage appeared to influence import patterns during May. For example, he noted that while overall fabric imports rose 1.8 percent to 357.8 million SME in May, imports of cotton fabrics during this month dropped 12.5 percent to 134.1 million SME.
Foote said he had a harder time explaining the performance of apparel imports during May. While overall imports rose 16.2 percent to 614 million SME, imports of cotton apparel rose 18.1 percent to 317.6 million SME in May. Foote said that “perhaps the raw-cotton shortage hasn’t shown up in the apparel pipelines yet.”
Meanwhile, other OTEXA data show that for the first five months of this year, the largest percentage increases for textile and apparel exports to the U.S. were posted by its two North American free-trade partners — Canada and Mexico. Total Canadian shipments to the U.S. soared about 28.1 percent in the January-through-May period, to 542 million SME. Beginning this year, Canada moved up beyond Taiwan, to become the U.S.’s second-largest supplier of imported textiles and apparel. During May alone, Canada’s exports rose by 25.6 percent compared with a year ago, to 117 million SME.
The imports from Mexico rose 18.9 percent during the first five months of this year, to 328 million SME. Mexico remains the U.S.’s sixth-largest supplier, as it has for more than one year. During May, Mexico’s shipments soared 41.1 percent compared with May 1993, to 75 million SME.
Virtually all of Canada’s increases are due to sharply higher shipments of yarns, fabrics and specialty fibers, such as those used to make tires. Mexico’s increased shipments for the first five months of 1994 were concentrated in the apparel sector.
Foote, however, said he could not say to what extent the strongly higher imports from Mexico and Canada were due to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect Jan. 1.
Elsewhere in the May import report, China, after several months of declining textile and apparel exports to the U.S., posted a 7.9 percent increase during May, or 12.3 million SME, to 166 million SME. For the first five months of this year, Chinese shipments are up just 0.2 percent to 805 million SME. It is the U.S.’s top source for imported textiles and apparel.
— Fairchild News Service

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