Asian Crisis Continues To Affect U.S. Textile Industry
In 1999, imports of textiles and apparel into the United States increased 5 percent (in dollars)
over 1998, while U.S. exports declined 1.5 percent, according to recently released figures from the
U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The lingering effects of the Asian financial crisis are apparent,” said Doug Ellis, president of American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI). “Not only are imports up, but import prices remain low because of the depressed currencies of most Asian nations. These low import prices have kept downward pressure on domestic prices and, at the same time, have caused our exports in the past couple of years to fall dramatically.
“On a bright note, we are pleased to see that in 1999 our exports to Mexico, because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, continue to post strong gains,” said Ellis, noting that textile and apparel exports to Mexico increased by $830 million or 18.5 percent over 1998.
However, U.S. textile and apparel exports to other regions of the world declined due to the strength of the U.S. dollar. Exports to the European Union fell almost 20 percent in 1999, exports to the Far East were off 4 percent, exports to South America fell 26 percent, and even exports to the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) were down nearly 5 percent.
“This decline is especially troubling because the CBI nations constitute the United States’ largest export market after Mexico,” said Ellis. “We need to strengthen our partnership with the CBI nations in order to increase our exports, and the Senate version of the CBI bill — which passed the Senate Finance Committee last year — would accomplish that.”
China’s NTR Status
In his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Ellis reiterated the association’s position that China should not be given permanent Normal Trade Relations (NTR) status nor should it be admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Our experience has shown that China in particular cannot or will not play by the rules,” Ellis explained. “Over the past 16 years, China has signed six textile and apparel bilaterals with the U.S. — and has broken every one of them.”
Ellis added that the U.S. textile industry has opened its market to billions of dollars of textile products, but has not received the same in return from other countries.
He said that China continues to illegally transship billions of dollars of textile products each year, subsidize its textile exports and keep its markets closed to U.S. products. In addition, China received a five-year quota phaseout, while every other country that has joined the WTO has faced a 10-year phaseout.