Chinese exports of hosiery, cotton trousers and knit shirts to the U.S. surged last quarter, according to a rushed release Friday of Commerce Department data meant to help U.S. companies petition for caps on Chinese imports.
Cotton dress imports rose 259% in the first quarter from the first three months of 2004, the Commerce Department said. Pajama imports increased 52%, and cotton trouser shipments were more than 15 times what they were last year. In all, Chinese apparel imports rose 63%, according to tabulations by the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.
A four-decade-old system of global quotas on textile trade ended Dec. 31, and monthly data released earlier this year showed an almost immediate increase in garment shipments to the U.S. from China.
The U.S. textile industry, which warned of a flood of imports, is asking the government to impose caps on some Chinese goods, a move the Bush administration has resisted.
"The data shows that China's surge is no one-month anomaly," trade coalition Executive Director Auggie Tantillo said. "It is a clear trend undeniably demonstrating severe damage in the U.S. market."
Instead of waiting the usual six weeks to release trade numbers, the U.S. government is publishing preliminary textile and apparel data every two weeks.
Chinese exports of shirts, skirts and other apparel to the U.S. surged 47% in January, the first month without quotas. Chinese imports accounted for 22% of the U.S. apparel market, compared with 16% a year earlier.
In the data released Friday, the Commerce Department didn't aggregate a total amount of imports for the first quarter.
The effect of China on U.S. manufacturers will be one of the issues discussed at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on April 14.