In January, Chinese textile and apparel exports rose to US$8.4bn, up 29% from a year ago. Meanwhile, China's textiles and apparel exports rose 21% in all of 2004.
China's dominance in the textile trade has produced worldwide ripples. Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka textile operators are lobbying the US for preferential treatment. Italy has asked the EU to re-impose duties, and the European Commission says it could decide soon whether to apply import restraints against China's apparel, according to AFX.
Thailand, Bangladesh and the Philippines have reduced their supplies, unable to compete with the 20% price cut by the Chinese, says a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industries of India. In Africa the garment sector has been shrinking fast, particularly in Lesotho where thousands have lost their jobs to plant closings.
China's men's casual trouser exports to the US jumped 1,332% in January, according to US-based industry group AMTAC, stealing market share from Mexico, a major supplier. American textile and apparel manufacturers have urged Washington to re-impose the quota amid shrinking market share and monthly job losses in the thousands, although other trade issues, such as China's ongoing intellectual property problems, are considered more pressing. US lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would impose fees on state-subsidized imports from non-market economies. At present, these fees only apply to market economies and only when an unfair competition complaint is lodged.
For their part, Chinese textile and clothing exporters are exploring self-policing measures, fearing a backlash. Apparel and textiles are China's biggest export earner and China now owns about more than 25% of the global market and WTO estimates that share will rise to 50% by 2010.