WASHINGTON — Imports of Chinese apparel and textiles shot up 21.8 percent in November to 1.6 billion square meter equivalents, valued at $2.4 billion, as manufacturing business from other countries continued to flow into China.

Partly because of that shift, shipments to the U.S. from the rest of the world fell 10.5 percent to 2.6 billion SME versus a year earlier. Including China, total apparel and textile imports slid 0.3 percent for the month.

China’s growth came despite quotas that restrict the country’s imports on 34 types of apparel and textiles and extend through 2008. Last year, those quotas were never filled, however, due partly to problems with how they were allocated in China.

Some of China’s gains in November came in goods restrained by quotas, including cotton trousers and man-made fiber knit shirts, both for women and girls’, as well as in unrestricted goods such as blankets, pillows and drapes.

Apparel and textile imports contributed to an overall trade deficit in goods with China of $22.9 billion in November, down from $24.4 billion the preceding month. Through the first 11 months of 2006, the deficit with China tallied $213.5 billion, already surpassing the record deficit of $201.5 billion in all of 2005.

The total U.S. deficit in goods and services, the lowest since July 2005, decreased to $58.2 billion in November from $58.8 billion during the preceding month. The deficit has narrowed for three consecutive months.

“Part of it is purely oil prices,” Global Insight chief U.S. economist Nigel Gault said of the narrowing deficit. “The rest of it is strong export growth, which is a combination of foreign economies doing better than they have in some time, particularly the Euro zone, the cumulative effect of the decline of the dollar since 2002 and some slowdown in the rate of growth in the U.S. economy, which has slowed the rate of imports.”

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez used the opportunity to push President Bush’s trade agenda of opening borders for businesses and to make a case for extending the President’s ability to negotiate trade deals without Congressional amendments.

“When we open in overseas markets, American companies, consumers and workers benefit,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “These numbers also show that the President’s Trade Promotion Authority is critical to our efforts to open new markets around the world.”

This story first appeared in the January 11, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Trade Promotion Authority, which helps the administration negotiate agreements by stripping Congress of the right to amend the terms, expires at the end of June, but lawmakers have the latitude to extend it.

China wasn’t the only winner in the apparel and textile import arena in November. Shipments from India increased 8.4 percent for the month to 212 million SME.

Among those losing the most ground were Canada, down 28 percent to 185 million SME; Mexico, slipping 18.5 percent to 267 million SME, and Pakistan, off 15.8 percent to 257 million SME.

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