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Exports of nonwovens continue climb: imports into the country also showing increases.

The good news continues! For the fourth straight year, data compile by the Customs Service show that U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods have increased significantly. Moreover, U.S. exporters continue to find new markets for their products. But it's equally true, in a similar trend during the past four years, that imports to the U.S. from other countries surged during 2003 as wee As Table 1 indicates, in fact, U.S. exports of all nonwoven roll goods increased by nearly 9% during 2003, reaching a record of almost 200 million kilograms shipped abroad (one kg = 2.2 pounds). This can be compared to the far more dramatic 19.1% increase in U.S. imports during 2003, however.

And, the gap between exports and imports of nonwoven roll goods continues to narrow. At the rate this trend is going, in fact, it is entirely possible that imports to the U.S. will exceed exports within the next five years--a phenomenon that would be unprecedented since INDA began tracking export/import data some 14 years ago. Indeed, in the early 1990s, U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods were two or three times greater than imports.

Is this cause for alarm? While we are not yet certain, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, Cary, NC, has been engaged for the past two years in a comprehensive Capitol Hill outreach program designed to introduce our industry to as many members of U.S Congress as possible.

In these meetings, we routinely share export/import data with Congressional officials to show that U.S. nonwovens are globally competitive. But, we also note the narrowing trade gap and use it to argue that the U.S. government needs to help ensure that tariff and non-tariff barriers imposed by other countries are removed. Considering that duties on nonwoven roll goods coming into the U.S. were unilaterally eliminated in the mid-1990's, INDA argues that pressure should be placed on our trading partners to eliminate their duties as well. By noting that imports to the U.S. have more than doubled during the past four years, while U.S. exports have gone up a more modest 81%, our arguments are that much more compelling.

Also, for the second year in a row, INDA members had an opportunity to present this information directly to members of the Congressional Textile Caucus. During a May 19 reception hosted by INDA, Textile Caucus members were invited to meet with members of INDA's Executive Committee, Board of Directors, International Trade Advisory Board members and other interested INDA members. It is an important effort by which members of the House of Representatives can learn about nonwovens directly from key players in our industry.

Exports and Imports

In terms of estimated value, there is also good news for U.S. producers of nonwoven roll goods. As shown in Table 2, the value of U.S. exports has steadily increased during the past four years, reaching a record high of nearly $1 billion in 2003. Imports, on the other hand, have also seen steady growth but are still valued at just about half the value of exports (imports equaled $547 million in 2003).

It is also noteworthy that a smaller percentage of U.S. exports stayed within North America during 2003 when compared with previous years. Led largely by a drop-off in exports to Mexico, in fact, the overall percentage of all U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods remaining within North America fell from the nearly 60% in 2002 to just under 48% in 2003 (please see Table 3).

There are also some interesting data regarding destinations for U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods. As shown in Table 4, for instance, U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods to certain Asian countries increased dramatically during 2003. While the numbers are relatively minor compared to markets such as Mexico, Canada, and the U.K., it is noteworthy that U.S. exports to Hong Kong, for instance, increased nearly 167% in 2003, while exports to China went up nearly 50%, and exports to Thailand rocketed nearly 565%.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the "Top 10" destinations for U.S. exports represented a smaller percentage of all U.S. exports in 2003 compared to 2002. As shown in Table 4, nearly 84% of total U.S. exports were shipped to 10 countries during 2002, but the number dropped to just more than 78% in 2003.

A similar occurrence can be noted with imports to the U.S. In 2002, for instance, slightly more than 80% of all nonwoven roll goods imported to the U.S. came from 10 countries. But by 2003, only about 76% of all imports came from the "Top 10." These data seem to indicate that U.S. exporters are finding more markets for nonwoven roll goods around the world and that a slightly larger amount of imports to the U.S. are coming from countries that did not export as much during 2002.

Overall, the export/import data for 2003 show that U.S. exports of nonwoven roll goods was healthy--reaching new records in terms of both kilograms shipped and estimated value. Over the past four years, in fact, the trends have been especially good for U.S. exports.

But this must be weighed against the realization that imports to the U.S. have skyrocketed at a much faster rate. In 1999, for instance, roll good imports to the U.S. equaled just more than 59 million kg with an estimated value of about $285 million. Yet by 2003, roll good imports had more than doubled in terms of kilograms (reaching 139 million kg) and the overall estimated value of these imports reached $547 million.

One final note is that U.S. imports of roll goods from Asia are not particularly impressive. There is only one Asian country on the "Top 10" list, for example, South Korea, which exported just 5 million kg to the U.S. in 2003. But it is also noteworthy that exports from Korea, while small, were up by more than 83% in 2003 compared to 2002. Could this be a sign of things to come? Unfortunately, only time will tell.
Table 1

U.S. Trade of Nonwoven Roll Goods (HTS code 5603, aggregated)

 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 % Change

U.S. Exports 109.7 158.7 165.5 182.2 198.4 8.9
U.S. Imports 59.4 84.8 96.2 116.6 138.8 19.1

Table 2

Estimated Value of Exports and Imports
Nonwoven Roll Goods, 1998-2002

 FAS Value U.S. Exports ($mil)

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

$597 $701.2 $710.3 $759.8 $935.4

 General Customs Value: U.S. Imports ($mil)

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

$285.3 $362.4 $376.8 $437.8 $547

Table 3

U.S. Exports of Nonwoven Roll Goods to North America

 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Mexico (mil. kg) 26.2 58.2 62.2 64.4 52.0
Canada (mil. kg) 27.7 30.4 33.3 43.8 41.0
Combined % 49.1 55.8 57.7 59.4 46.9
 of U.S. Total Exports

Table 4

U.S. Trade of Nonwoven Roll Goods "Top 10"

 Top 10 Destinations for U.S.
 Exports: 2003

Country Mil. Kg % Change

Mexico 52.0 (19.3)
Canada 41.0 (6.5)
U.K. 10.9 9.8
Hong Kong 10.7 166.8
China 8.7 49.0
Germany 8.0 33.1
Japan 6.2 1.7
Thailand 6.1 564.9
Honduras 5.8 13.1
Belgium 5.6 52.0

% of Total Exports to Top 10 Countries

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

78.3 80.1 80.6 83.6 78.12

Top 10 Countries Importing to
 U.S.: 2003

Country Mil. Kg % Change

Israel 25.1 20.3
Canada 18.4 29.0
Germany 15.2( 24.1)
Italy 11.9 6.8
Mexico 7.8 1.4
Spain 7.0 188.7
U.K. 6.2 39.4
Korea 5.0 83.4
Brazil 4.8 76.5
Turkey 4.6 10.3

 % of Total Imports from Top 10

1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

83.3 82.2 84.3 80.4 76.4
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Title Annotation:Capitol Comments
Comment:Exports of nonwovens continue climb: imports into the country also showing increases.(Capitol Comments)
Author:Mayberry, Peter; Franken, Jessica
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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