No Safe Harbor For US Textiles

he headline reads, “India to become leading technical textiles exporter.” India-based
newspaper The Hindu recently published a story featuring India’s Minister of State for Textiles, E.
V. K. S. Elangovan, who set up an Expert Committee on Technical Textiles and inaugurated a two-day
Technical Textile Summit. One suggestion to gain share in the sector was to institute a Credit
Linked Capital Subsidy for technical textile machinery to encourage investment.

The Hindu also reported, “Further establishment of theme-based technical textile parks,
introduction of a separate stream for technical textiles in engineering colleges and technical
institutes for textiles, and setting up centers of excellence for quality R&D [research and
development] work would greatly help the industry in accelerating growth.”

The piece projected a 3.3-percent compounded annual growth rate for the global technical
textile products market from 2005 through 2010 and an 11.25-percent compounded annual growth rate
for those same products within India.

“With greater investments, focused [R&D] efforts and creation of state-of-the-art common
testing facilities, we can emerge as a leading technical textile manufacturer and exporter,”
Elangovan stated in the article.

India’s The Financial Express newspaper reported, “The committee will suggest a regulatory
framework to promote the use of technical textiles, covering the use of geosynthetics in
infrastructure projects, fire-retardant textiles in public places, textiles in landfill sites, use
of nonwoven disposables in hospitals and protection gear for industrial workers.”

It sure sounds like a plan.

As the consequences of globalization expand, American business needs to learn that global
business plays by a different set of rules. Foreign governments play a key leadership role, one
that few in the States are used to seeing.

China has the efficiency and speed of a planned economy. India, the world’s largest
democracy, though often suggested as slow and bureaucratic, has the ability to identify markets,
target and support its domestic growth, and even encourage a product’s adoption in the marketplace.
It is hard to imagine such support or involvement by the US government, let alone an interest in
the textile sector.

For some time now, many textile market observers have pointed to technical textiles as the
future of the US textile industry. The sector does have some great domestic resources, such as the
Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center at North Carolina State University. The sector is vibrant and
seething with innovation — new products, new applications and new markets. Messe Frankfurt’s
Techtextil, IFAI’s Expo and INDA’s IDEA 07 all share a freshness that is contagious.

There is no safe harbor for US textiles, but the interest of the Indian government in
promoting the development of the technical textiles sector is a positive signal for those who have
placed their bets in that sector. However, bear in mind you aren’t alone, and soon you will be
competing with India Inc. If that’s the case, you can also count on China Inc. coming soon.

The US industry’s ability to innovate and market is key to success.

September/October 2006