Textile Imports On The Rise Again

By James A. Morrissey, Washington CorrespondentThe leveling off of textile and apparel
imports that occurred last year has ended as imports once again are on the rise. But what is
interesting is that imports of apparel continue to fall off while textile imports are soaring.
Charles V. Bremer, vice president of international trade at the American Textile Manufacturers
Institute (ATMI), says the continuing decline in apparel imports is due to weak retail sales, but
the sharp increase in textiles can be traced to a “rather more ominous source.” He says the data
indicate that there is an increasingly strong market for textiles but the bulk of it is being
filled by imports. “The shuttering of hundreds of mills during the past two years has taken
billions of yards of woven and knit fabric capacity off the scene, but there still is a large
demand for fabric in the domestic market.”He says the mills that remain in business are at a
competitive disadvantage, because devalued Asian currencies are resulting in lower prices which
domestic mills have difficulty meeting.Commerce Department data for the first two months of this
year show a 10.3-percent increase in textile imports over the comparable period of last year, while
and apparel imports were down 3.1 percent. Imports from North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
partners Mexico and Canada were down in both categories, with textiles off 4.2 percent and apparel
down 6.8 percent. Exports presented an even more disappointing picture for U.S. manufacturers, as
exports of textiles were down 10.5 percent and apparel down 27.2 percent.