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ATMI: Import growth slows slightly during record year

Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, December 11, 2000

NEW YORK -A report issued by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute revealed that although the rate of growth of textile and apparel imports was lower than previous months, the volume from the first three quarters of the year continues to set records.

Textile and apparel imports increased 9.7 percent during September 2000 compared to September of last year, according to data released by the Department of Commerce. Yarn, fabric and made-up furnishings also increased to 10.6 percent, above '99's level, while apparel imports rose 8.9 percent. The first three quarters of 2000 saw a 19 percent rise in textile imports and a 15 percent rise in apparel imports, an average combined gain of 17 percent.

"September was the first month in over a year that total textile and apparel imports didn't increase by double-digit rates," said Roger Chastain, ATMI president and chairman/ceo of Mount Vernon Mills Inc. "After seeing import increases of 17, 19, 24 and even 37 percent month after month, I suppose we should be grateful that September's increase was 'only' 9.7 percent."

Chastain said rising textile and apparel imports from various individual countries was disturbing when the first three quarters of 2000 were compared to 1999. Brazilian imports were ahead of last year by 67 percent, while Pakistan's and Thailand's imports were up by 37 and 22 percent, respectively.

"All of these countries have closed their domestic markets to our goods, but they're free to flood us with theirs," Chastain said. "Our government needs to use the tools at its disposal to compel these countries, and others, to.provide access to their textile and apparel markets."

U.S. exports did rise as well, Chastain noted, with September numbers up by 23 percent and the first nine months of the year up by 17 percent. Imports to Mexico and Canada led the way, with totals reaching $2.85 billion and $2.07 million, respectively.

"This will be a record-breaking year for textile imports," he said, "but we could be doing more if we could get access to markets that remain closed to our products."

Chastain went on to say that U.S. textile manufacturers faced a challenging time, with interest rate increases hitting both housing and auto sales as well as consumer sales cooling significantly.

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