ITMA 2003: Exceeding Expectations

iven the politics and wavering expectations surrounding ITMA 2003, early reports from
attendees and exhibitors were upbeat. Progress in technology, dedicated pursuit of active markets
for machinery and a general sense that technical innovation is far from tapped out prevailed in the
early days of the show.

The immense pressure on US textile manufacturers was noticeable, both in data from machinery
manufacturers referencing vast investment in China and Asia, and in formal settings such as the
ITMA Forum, “New Frontiers In Textiles: Moving Markets & Strategic Innovations.” The first
forum, titled “China,” began with a keynote address by Minister Du Yu-Zhou, president, China
National Textile Industry Council. Du cited China’s “comparative advantages” and detailed the
growth and transformations in the Chinese textile economy. The ensuing discussion cut straight to
the deep divide among competing textile countries. Carlos Moore — president, A&S Trade
Services, who also has a history with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute — rebutted Du’s
remarks by stating currency manipulation, intellectual property rights concerns, state-owned
companies, export subsidiaries and other advantages in China form the framework of a “contrived

Du insisted China will abide by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and that through
comparative advantage, China’s current course is almost a natural progression of industrialization.
Currency is linked directly to stability, and for China, this is much more pressing than the
currency revaluation’s association with achieving a true free-market economy. Du believes the
movement of the industry to China will create opportunities for developed nations.

Other nations’ concerns also came to the forefront. Sniping ensued over cotton subsidies,
which markets have achieved greater degrees of openness, and the call for cooperation without
provision for a win-win solution. Rhetoric aside, the conflict among competing textile nations is a
vicious stew of international relations, politics and national self-interest.

ITMA 2003 exhibitors are selling machines. Technology is improving productivity and product
quality. Spinning, weaving, knitting, nonwovens, dyeing, printing and finishing all present
opportunities to enhance products and increase process flexibility. For the US industry, the
wake-up call is that many of those sales are being made to China, Turkey, India and other markets,
making the current global textile marketplace even more competitive.