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Textiles take pounding in July

As textiles production migrates offshore at a rapid rate, the domestic textiles industry lost 8,900 jobs in July, the third-highest monthly total ever, the American Textiles Manufacturers Institute reported. And that doesn't include the 6,450 jobs lost when Pillowtex stopped producing goods last month; nor the 1,200 more Pillowtex workers that will be out on the street when the mill winds down operations in another 60 days or so.

And it only gets worse when one adds in all the jobs lost in the related apparel business, said the industry trade group. "When combined with the loss of 9,300 apparel jobs in July, this means that the U.S. textiles and apparel sector lost 18,200 jobs last month, accounting for fully one-quarter of all manufacturing job losses in the United States."

The industry's July job loss, said the ATMI, extends "a long string of sharp monthly declines in U.S. textiles and apparel employment that began in April 2003. Over the past four months, 26,000 textiles jobs and 21,000 apparel jobs have been lost in the United States."

Since January 2001, the ATMI reported, "2.6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, including almost 300,000 U.S. textile and apparel jobs, have been lost."

Cass Johnson, ATMI senior vp, said, "It is long past time for this government to stand up to countries like China that use every illegal trick in the book to take our jobs away. We need our government to be as outraged about China trade practices as our workers are about losing their jobs."

Underlining the extent of the job drain triggered by Chinese textiles imports, the ATMI said U.S. Commerce Department figures indicate that textiles and apparel imports from China for the month of May 2003, the latest figure available, jumped up by 69 percent, to 667 million square meters from 395 million the preceding year.

During the same month, imports from Vietnam virtually quadrupled, racing ahead to 79 million square meters from only 20 million a year ago.

Crying foul, ATMI said, "Both China and Vietnam, along with other major Asian exporting nations, manipulate their currencies to keep them undervalued against the U.S. dollar, a de facto subsidy of their exports to the United States. In particular, economists have estimated that China gains as much as 40 per cent price advantage from its currency 'peg.' Currency manipulation in order to gain an export advantage is illegal under World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund rules. Both countries also directly subsidize their textile industries."

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