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Slowdown in U.S. imports: blip or trend? A decline that started several years ago shows some continuance.

It may be a statistical blip, an early irrelevance or the start of something big, but January's data (the latest available) on the United States' imports of non-apparel textiles show a slight decline in the rate of both dollars and units, compared with the same month a year ago. A similar situation holds for apparel.

The reason January's figures compel more than a passing glance is that they appear to confirm a trend that began in 2005.

In units, for example, although U.S. imports in 2005 were 6.8 percent above those imported the previous year, that growth was less than half the pace of 2004.

The unit rate slowed even more in 2006, down to 2.7 percent. And last year, U.S. imports of non-apparel textiles grew less than 1 percent.

Measured in dollars, the picture was similar if not identical, as the rate of growth slowed steadily from 2005 to 2007. And by January, import growth stalled almost completely, at $1.853 billion.

Among the top exporters of non-apparel textiles to the United States, only China showed an increase in units in January. And China's increase was less than 3 percent.

Pakistan, the second-largest exporter in January, shipped 172 million units here during the month, down 20 percent. India's shipments were down 2 percent, Mexico's down 7 percent, Canada's down 26 percent.

The slowdown has not gone unnoticed abroad. A commentary on the situation appearing in The Indian Express, reprinted on India's Yarns and Fibers Exchange Web site on Jan. 19, noted that "The worst is not yet over for [India's] textile industry.... With the U.S. accounting for nearly 35 percent of the total textile exports from [India], any slowdown in its biggest market will have direct consequences back home." The story went on to note that "The falling consumer spending in the U.S. would affect retailing and drag down their [the U.S.'s] textile import volumes from India." One likely consequence, the author wrote, was the layoff of some 150,000 Indian workers.

It has become a cliche that when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. The impending recession, which some observers, like Warren Buffett, argue is already here, gives credence to that aphorism, at least in the realm of global textiles.

RELATED ARTICLE: Exporting textiles: the U.S. dilemma.

As the domestic textiles industry continues to wage its seemingly endless battles over imports, grappling with such tinderbox issues as tariffs, free trade and foreign dumping, it should not be forgotten that the United States remains a major player in exporting textiles as well.

Latest data from the U.S. Office of Textiles and Apparel, a unit of the Commerce Department, show that U.S. exports of non-apparel textiles in 2007 amounted to less than $12.3 billion, or slightly more than half of the $22.5 billion imported by the United States that year. (Apparel exports, however, remain a tiny fraction of imports.)

While the non-apparel data clearly put to rest the popular notion that the domestic textiles industry is on its last legs, a closer look at the figures reveals that last year's exports actually declined significantly from the year before. In fact, the rate of growth of domestic sales abroad has been slowing since 2005.

To many American manufacturers, the factors underlying this development are clear: unfair policies of foreign governments. "Unfortunately, U.S. exporters oftentimes confront tariff levels eight to 10 times higher than U.S. duty rates when trying to access key overseas markets," said H.E. Don Stephenson, in his capacity as chairman of a negotiating group of American textiles manufacturers, at the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Round in 2006. "Though many of these nations still claim 'developing country' status under the WTO, they maintain sophisticated textile and apparel sectors with massive production and export capacity."--Nathan Weber
ASIAN & SOUTH ASIAN EXPORTS OF
NON-APPAREL TEXTILES TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF SHARE OF
 AMOUNT REGION'S TOTAL WORLD TOTAL

1 China $9,574.7 61% 43%
2 India $1,934.1 12% 9%
3 Pakistan $1,671.7 11% 7%
4 South Korea $697.5 4% 3%
5 Taiwan $504.0 3% 2%
6 Japan $390.5 3% 2%
7 Thailand $292.9 2% 1%
8 Indonesia $225.1 1% 1%
9 Vietnam $199.4 1% 1%
10 Hong Kong $89.1 1% 0.4%

TOTAL $15,578.9 99% 69.4%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE OF TEXTILES & APPAREL
PERCENTAGE OF REGION'S TOTAL MAY NOT ADD UP TO 100 BECAUSE OF ROUNDING.

ASIAN & SOUTH ASIAN EXPORTS OF
SELECTED HOME TEXTILES * TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF SHARE OF
 AMOUNT REGION'S TOTAL WORLD TOTAL

1 China $2,068.7 48% 37%
2 Pakistan $1,040.9 24% 19%
3 India $971.8 22% 17%
4 Thailand $81.5 2% 1%
5 Taiwan $77.7 2% 1%
6 Bangladesh $50.7 1% 1%
7 South Korea $3.9 0.1% 0.1%
TOTAL $4,295.2 99.1% 76.1%

* BED, BATH & TABLE LINENS; CURTAINS, DRAPES, BLINDS (INCLUDING
VALENCES).

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION
PERCENTAGE OF REGION'S TOTAL MAY NOT ADD UP TO 100 BECAUSE
OF ROUNDING.

U.S. IMPORTS OF NON-APPAREL TEXTILES IN UNITS
(Units in billions)

 Jan. 2008 Jan. 2007 % CHANGE

1 China 1.051 1.022 2.8%
2 Pakistan 0.172 0.215 -20.0%
3 India 0.161 0.163 -1.5%
4 Mexico 0.129 0.139 -6.7%
5 Canada 0.125 0.169 -26.2%
6 Korea, South 0.120 0.143 -16.3%
7 Taiwan 0.069 0.074 -6.8%
8 Indonesia 0.048 0.045 8.0%
9 Turkey 0.034 0.040 -16.3%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL

U.S. IMPORTS OF
NON-APPAREL TEXTILES
($ in billions)

 AMOUNT CHANGE

2007 $22.5 4.0%
2006 $21.6 6.9%
2005 $20.5 10.5%
2004 $18.5 14.0%
2003 $16.3 6.9%
2002 $15.2 10.5%
2001 $13.8 -4.7%
2000 $14.5 11.7%
1999 $12.9 5.9%
1998 $12.2 9.4%
1997 $11.2 17.3%
1996 $9.5 --

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL

TOP FIVE EXPORTERS OF
NON-APPAREL TEXTILES TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF
 AMOUNT TOTAL

1 China $9,575.0 43%
2 India $1,934.1 9%
3 Pakistan $1,671.7 7%
4 Canada $1,241.1 6%
5 Mexico $1,102.1 5%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE
OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL

TOP FIVE EXPORTERS OF
COTTON TOWELS TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF
 AMOUNT TOTAL

1 India $359.3 31%
2 China $257.9 22%
3 Pakistan $226.5 20%
4 Brazil $105.5 9%
5 Turkey $94.7 8%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE
OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL

TOP FIVE EXPORTERS OF COTTON
SHEETS & PILLOWCASES TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF
 AMOUNT TOTAL

1 China $638.59 34%
2 Pakistan $499.09 27%
3 India $333.51 18%
4 Portugal $66.87 4%
5 Turkey $61.12 3%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE
OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL

TOP FIVE EXPORTERS OF
COTTON BEDSPREADS TO U.S., 2007
($ in millions)

 SHARE OF
 AMOUNT TOTAL

1 China $562.1 56%
2 Pakistan $182.5 18%
3 India $71.0 7%
4 Mexico $54.9 5%
5 Portugal $35.9 4%

SOURCE: U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT'S OFFICE
OF TEXTILES AND APPAREL
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:THE 2008 GLOBAL HOME TEXTILES REPORT
Author:Weber, Nathan
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Apr 21, 2008
Words:1261
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