WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports rose 8.9 percent in February compared with a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Fabric and clothing imports from China were off 13 percent in the month, but Hong Kong manufacturers stepped in to fill much of this void.

For February, textile and apparel imports totaled nearly 1.3 billion square meters equivalent, a record for any February, but well below last August’s 1.5 billion SME record for a single month’s imports.

For the first two months of this year textile and apparel imports were up 9.9 percent to 2.6 billion SME, and for the 12 months ending in February, these imports rose 11 percent to about 16.1 billion SME.

During February, apparel imports rose 8.5 percent, to 626.1 million SME. During the first two months, apparel imports rose 9.3 percent, to 1.3 billion SME and were up 8.7 percent, to 7.6 billion SME for the year ending in February.

Textile imports rose 9.4 percent, to 649.5 million SME in February and were up 9.3 percent, to 1.3 billion SME for the first two months of this year. For the 12 months ending in February, textile imports jumped 13.2 percent, to 8.4 billion SME. Significantly, yarn imports declined by 1.6 percent in February, following several months in which they were up by 20 to 30 percent each month.

Among the U.S.’s top suppliers of textiles and apparel, those from China — the leading shipper — plunged 13 percent in February, compared with a year ago, to 145.7 million SME. China’s shipments were off 7.1 percent, to 334.4 million SME for the first two months of 1994.

Data prepared by Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, which is available only for the year to date, indicate U.S. imports of Chinese-made men’s and boys’ and women’s and girls’ cotton trousers, categories 347/348, plummeted nearly 70 percent, from 7.7 million SME to 2.36 million SME, in the first two months compared with the same period in 1993.

Imports of manmade fiber poplin and broadcloth, category 625, dropped 65 percent, from 2.1 million SME to just 15,746 SME in the two-month period.

Donald Foote, director of OTEXA’s agreements division, said he believed market forces caused China’s textile and apparel exports to the U.S. to decline precipitously during the first two months of this year.

However, Foote noted that “China and Hong Kong have interlocking business relationships,” declining further comment. He said that during February, U.S. imports of textiles and apparel from Hong Kong jumped 20.3 percent, to 69.6 million SME. For the first two months of 1994, these imports soared 23.7 percent, to 181.3 million SME.

The biggest single increase was posted by cotton bodysuits and shirts, category 359, up 57 percent, from about 9.8 million SME to 15.3 million SME for the first two months of this year, versus the same 1993 period. U.S. imports from Hong Kong of cotton and manmade fiber underwear, categories 352 and 652, soared 53.5 percent, from 14.2 million SME during January and February 1993 to 21.9 million SME during the same span this year.

Imports of manmade fiber women’s knit blouses from Hong Kong, category 639, jumped 44.7 percent in the same period, from 7.6 million SME to 11 million SME.

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