Early Numbers Show China in Import Lead

Michele SanFilippo, March 14, 2005

In January, China took a 35 percent share of the U.S. import market for textiles and a 22 percent share for apparel, according to the U.S. Office of Textiles and Apparel. Total Chinese share of the U.S. import market was 29 percent, the highest share of any single country.

Imports from China in major apparel products doubled, compared with January 2004. Sensitive categories such as cotton trousers saw increases of as much as 1,001 percent.

At the same time, textiles and apparel job losses for the combined sector reached 12,000 in January. At least seven textiles plants have closed in the United States so far this year.

Because January import numbers contain a significant amount of goods shipped from China while the country was still under quota, the figures are considered only a portent of what is to come. Chinese Customs figures released earlier this week showed a 546 percent increase in exports of goods shipped from China in January. These goods will be reflected in February 2005 U.S. import statistics, scheduled for release in mid April.

Chinese prices in January dropped an average of 22 percent compared with prices one year ago, with the average Chinese price in January 2005 of $1.25 per square meter compared to $1.61 per square meter in January 2004. Imports from China in the apparel categories where the U.S. industry filed threat-based safeguard petitions were up dramatically. Overall, imports from China in those categories doubled in January, increasing from 45 million square meters to 89 million square meters.

Some of the categories with the largest increases compared with January 2004 figures include: men's and boys' cotton shirts, up 249 percent; women's and girls' cotton shirts, up 523 percent; men's and boys' non-knit cotton shirts, with a jump of 150 percent; men's and boys' cotton trousers grew 990 percent; women's and girls' cotton trousers, up 1,081 percent; other synthetic filament fabric grew 279 percent; women's and girls' man-made fiber shirts, up 175 percent; and men's and boys' man-made fiber trousers, up 165 percent.

In February, the European Union released statistics demonstrating China's exports to the E.U. had grown 387 percent in vital product categories.

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