Asia takes lead role in exporting

Marvin Lazaro, October 1, 2001

Although the U.S. base of home textiles manufacturers has slowly expanded, one area of the world has slowly risen to the top and has become the most dominant supplier of home textiles products to the United States — Asia.

Approximately $14 billion worth of non-apparel textiles crossed the United States' border in 2000. Of that, Asian countries supplied $7.78 billion worth, easily outdistancing the rest of the world's total of $4.25 billion.

In fact, according to data collected by the United States Department of Commerce, Asian countries dominate the list of countries that export textiles to the United States. Of the top 20 spots for 2000, Asian countries occupy 11 of them. Breaking it down further, Asian countries occupy three of the top five and six of the top 10.

Leading the pack of all textile exporters is China. The home of the Great Wall exported more than $2 billion worth of textiles, $2.03 billion to be exact, to the United States in 2000. Our neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico, account for the second and third spots on the list with $1.603 and $1.280 billion, respectively. Rounding out the top three Asian textile exporting countries to the United States are Pakistan at number-four overall and India at number-five overall. These Asian neighbors form a powerful tandem, accounting for more than $1.8 billion in textiles imports to the United States, or $914 and $954 million, respectively.

Rounding out the field of the top 20 Asian exporters are South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. After the final tally, Asian countries shipped $7.57 billion worth of textiles to the United States in 2000, a staggering 52 percent of total textiles imported into the United States

Mainland China clearly dominated the overall importers of textiles to the United States by a long shot. The only other world superpower appeared in every home textile category. It ranked second for wool floor coverings and cotton pillowcases, fourth for cotton terry/other pile towels and man-made fiber floor coverings, and third for wool blankets, second for cotton sheets and first for cotton bedspreads/ quilts. Close behind is India which topped all others in cotton terry/other pile towels and wool floor coverings and came in fifth for cotton sheets, fourth for cotton pillowcases and wool blankets and third for cotton bedspreads/quilts.

In the cotton pillowcases, wool floor coverings, cotton terry/other pile towels, cotton bedspreads/quilts and cotton sheets categories, Pakistan, the world's second largest cotton producing country behind the United States, according to Muhammed Aslam, commercial consul for the Pakistani Consulate, is just as strong a player with exports to the United States totaling more than $286 million for 2000.

While some American vendors may go to Asian countries simply for the price of the goods, others go there for the uniqueness and variety of designs or the ease in which American-made designs are translated into the production process. The designs on many of the products made in India, said Manjit Nair, an official with the commerce section of the Indian Consulate, are unique to India and are a result of the various regions the textiles are produced in. Since each state in India has its own specific design style, many different kinds of weaves, colors and patterns are produced. Aslam said that since much of Pakistan's textile mills have the latest in equipment, and designs are relatively easy to produce or change.

There is no doubt that the relative cheap price of labor, leading to an overall cheaper final cost, has played a major part in many companies' decisions to either manufacture or buy their products from Asia. But as both Aslam and Nair said, many choose to go to China, Pakistan, India or Asia in general, because the quality is better and the depth of design is much greater there than the rest of the world.

Asian export sales by product — 2000 vs. 1999 $ in millions
(only product categories with representation are shown.)

NA: not applicable
Australia, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea are not included due to insufficient representation across all categories.
All charts source: ATMI
BANGLADESH 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $1.6 $0.1 1584.5%
Cotton terry/other pile towels 15.8 16.0 -0.9
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 2.6 1.0 157.8
Cotton pillowcases 1.3 0.1 1101.9
CHINA 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $39.5 $39.1 0.9%
Cotton terry/other pile towels 54.8 41.3 32.6
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 160.4 152.3 5.4
Cotton pillowcases 11.7 11.5 1.7
Wool blankets 1.9 2.0 -7.1
Wool floor coverings 178.6 159.4 12.0
Man-made fiber floor covering 24.7 20.2 22.0
HONG KONG 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $0.9 $0.0 3786.4
Cotton terry/other pile towels 4.9 3.7 30.8%
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 1.0 2.2 -52.3
Cotton pillowcases 0.1 0.1 52.1
INDIA 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $15.9 $8.5 87.4%
Cotton terry/other pile towels 90.1 72.1 25.6
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 57.6 43.0 34.4
Cotton pillowcases 5.1 3.0 70.9
Wool blankets 1.0 0.2 444.1
Wool floor coverings 248.8 250.0 -0.4
INDONESIA 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $10.7 $9.1 17.3%
Cotton pillowcases 2.2 2.6 -15.1
PAKISTAN 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $36.8 $33.9 8.5%
Cotton terry/other pile towels 69.2 58.3 18.8
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 71.7 61.0 17.7
Cotton pillowcases 7.0 6.9 1.9
Wool floor coverings 102.1 89.0 14.7
PHILIPPINES 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $6.7 $6.2 8.6%
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 5.2 4.7 10.0
Cotton pillowcases 1.9 1.5 29.4
SRI LANKA 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton terry/other pile towels $8.3 $6.2 33.3%
Cotton bedspreads/quilts $1.2 $1.2 -2.9%
Cotton pillowcases $0.6 $0.3 79.1%
THAILAND 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton terry/other pile towels $26.7 $22.4 19.0%
Cotton pillowcases 0.4 0.1 250.0
Wool floor coverings 9.8 8.3 18.1
TAIWAN 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton terry/other pile towels $8.4 $12.4 -32.3%
Cotton bedspreads/quilts 2.5 3.6 -29.1
VIETNAM 2000 1999 % chg
Cotton sheets $0.4 $0.0 40,000.0%
Cotton pillowcases 0.1 0.06 500.0

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