WASHINGTON — Primarily because of a surge in shipments by Mexico and China, textile and apparel imports rose 12.7 percent in September compared with a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Total textile and apparel imports recorded for September were 1.58 billion square meters equivalent. It was the second largest import month on record, after 1.73 billion SME in August. For the first nine months of this year, aggregate imports were 13.01 billion SME, a 9 percent increase over a year earlier.
Imports for the year ending in September were 16.92 billion SME, a 9.2 percent rise from the previous period.
Apparel imports soared 17.4 percent in September to 806.3 million SME. In the first three quarters of this year they were up 9.9 percent to 6.3 billion SME and for the year ending in September apparel imports rose 9.2 percent to 8.11 billion SME.
Textile import levels during September were moderate compared with those for apparel. Imports rose 8.1 percent to 774.8 million SME. For the year to date textile imports rose 8.1 percent to 6.71 billion SME and for the year ending in September textile imports rose 9.2 percent to 8.81 billion SME.
In analyzing the import data, Donald Foote, director of the agreements division of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, noted that the 9 percent rise in overall import levels in the first three quarters was virtually identical to the 9.1 percent increase recorded in the same 1993 period.
Mexico again was the big import story of the month. In September, textile and apparel shipments from Mexico soared 41 percent, or 28 million SME, to 96 million SME. Mexican apparel imports bounded up 65.6 percent to 47 million SME. Foote said about 90 percent of this apparel trade qualified for benefits under the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. imports of textiles from Mexico in September jumped 23.5 percent to 49 million SME. For the year to date Mexico’s total textile and apparel shipments to the U.S. were 686 million SME, up 143 million SME from the year earlier, or 26.4 percent.
These increases by Mexico, the U.S.’s fifth-largest shipper, dwarfed those of other nations, save for Canada. The U.S.’s other NAFTA partner exported a total of 982 million SME to the U.S., virtually all textiles, in the first nine months of this year, up 167 million SME, or 20.5 percent.
Turning to the overall import report for September, Foote said almost half of all import growth was due to shipments from Mexico, Canada, the European Union and Caribbean Basin nations. Imports from these nations are not heavily limited by the U.S. and often not limited at all.
Of the 1.07 billion rise in textile and apparel imports in the first three quarters of 1994, shipments by from these areas contributed 529 million SME, or 49.2 percent.
The Commerce official also noted that for September, China’s textile and apparel shipments rose 19.7 million SME, or by 19.7 percent, to 223 million SME. He noted these exports to the U.S. were up 13.5 percent for the third quarter, after dropping 1.5 percent in the first three months and rising a scant 0.9 percent in the second. Foote, who termed the recent increases “a surge,” indicated they should abate in the final quarter of this year as the number of quota embargoes grows.
Meanwhile, Walter Elisha, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute’s first vice president, and Springs Industries’ chairman and ceo, cited the September trade data to bolster domestic textile manufacturers’ contentions that legislation implementing the Uruguay Round must retain a provision changing U.S. import law so that sewing confers origin on apparel, not cutting, as is presently the case.
“We are convinced that these Hong Kong [apparel] shipments represent China’s repeated use of a loophole in Customs Service rulings which allow garments to be cut in Hong Kong and claimed against Hong Kong’s quota when, in fact, the apparel is being assembled in China,” said Elisha in a statement Friday.
Hong Kong’s textile-apparel exports grew 11.7 percent in the first quarter, 12.9 percent in the second and 14.7 percent in the third.
— Fairchild News Service

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