WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel imports rose 4.3 percent in December compared with the same month in 1992, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. For all of 1993, they were up 9.1 percent, reaching more than 15.8 billion square meters equivalent.

During December, textile and apparel imports totaled 1.2 billion SME, the highest December import total on record, but far short of the one-month high of 1.5 billion SME recorded last August.

Apparel imports during December rose just 2.2 percent, to 544.1 million SME, while textile imports were up 6.1 percent, to 668.6 million SME.

For all of 1993, apparel imports were up 6.6 percent to a calendar year record of 7.5 billion SME, while textile imports also set a calendar year record, up 11.5 percent, to 8.3 billion SME.

China remained the U.S.’s top supplier of imported textiles and apparel last year, shipping 2.1 billion SME, a 7.5 percent increase over 1992 levels. Some of the fastest-growing categories of products shipped by China last year included: cotton print cloth, category 315, up 36.3 percent to 187.1 million SME; knit, woven and braided man-made fiber headwear, category 659, up 23.8 percent to 87.1 million SME, and cotton woven headwear, category 359, up 20 percent to 110.7 million SME.

Separately, the International Trade Commission reported Thursday that the U.S. experienced a record $16.7 billion merchandise trade deficit with China during the first three quarters of 1993, with U.S. apparel and textile imports accounting for about $5 billion of the total.

Of all the U.S.’s leading textile and apparel trading partners, Mexico scored the largest increase for shipments last year. It exported 746 million SME of apparel and fabric to the U.S., up 24.1 percent from 1992. This made Mexico the U.S.’s sixth-largest textile and apparel supplier in 1993, up from eighth place the previous year. Trade analysts forecast Mexico’s clothing shipments, in particular, will grow substantially this year as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Last year, the major share of Mexico’s growth as a supplier to the U.S. textile and apparel market was due to a 157 percent jump in its shipments of category 606, man-made fiber filament nylon yarn, to 63.4 million SME.

The Dominican Republic also posted a substantial increase in its textile and apparel exports to the U.S. last year, although its 10th-place ranking as a U.S. supplier remained unchanged from 1992. Total Dominican clothing and textile exports to the U.S. rose about 14.5 percent, to 549 million SME last year. Exports of category 352, cotton underwear, accounted for the almost half of this total growth; they were up 40.3 percent to 113.1 million SME.

Reviewing the 1993 import data, Henry A. Truslow 3rd, president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said the U.S. trade deficit in textiles reached a record $31.5 billion last year, something he blamed on the refusal of many nations to open their markets to U.S. textile and clothing exports.

“The time is long overdue for the U.S. to stop being a patsy, while other nations exploit our markets and take away our jobs,” said Truslow, who also is president of Sunbury Textile Mills, Sunbury, Pa.

He called upon President Clinton to press for market access agreements by April 15, the deadline for concluding such provisions in the GATT’s Uruguay Round.

Donald Foote, director of the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel agreements division, noted that 60 percent of the import growth in 1993 was due to products the U.S. does not control because they either are not made in this country or pose no threat to disrupt the domestic market.

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