Textile Industry

Overview of US Textile Industry

Since 1997, the U.S. textile industry has been forced to close more than 250 textile plants in the United States, including more than 50 textile plants during the last year and a half. Over 200,000 U.S. textile workers have lost their jobs, including more than 30,000 since January 2002. Five of this country’s largest most modern textile mills - Pillowtex, Burlington Industries, CMI Industries, Galey & Lord, and Malden Mills - have filed for bankruptcy.

The losses in the textile industry reflect strains and pressures felt by the entire U.S. manufacturing sector. Over the past two years, over two million manufacturing jobs in the United States have been lost, many of them because U.S. companies cannot compete against as much as a 40 percent price advantage that countries such as China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan have gained as a result of currency manipulation.

Despite these losses, the U.S. textile sector remains one of the largest manufacturing employers in the United States and the entire textile complex, including apparel, machinery, chemicals, cotton and man-made fiber sectors, employs nearly one million U.S. workers.

The crisis in the U.S. textile industry entered its third year in 2003 as imports from China and Vietnam in non-quota controlled categories jumped by hundreds of percents while U.S. textile employment and shipments continued to slump. In March 2003, U.S. textile jobs losses jumped back up to 2001 levels as the industry shed 6,000 jobs and 4th quarter 2002 financial results revealed that the industry had again dipped into the red, losing almost $200 million.

The overall textile crisis was precipitated by an average 40 percent decline in Asian currencies against the U.S. dollar over the past five years, with prices for Asian yarn and fabric dropping by as much as 38 percent. These drops have occurred because of competitive devaluations by Asian exporters which have used currency manipulation to maintain an export advantage over the U.S. domestic industry. In addition, heavy subsidization of textile sectors in China, Korea, Taiwan, India and Vietnam, among others, have contributed to U.S. industry losses. In China and Vietnam over half the textile industry is state owned and funded.

In response to the crisis in textiles, the Bush Administration has made a number of commitments and promises to the domestic textile industry. These include a statement by President Bush that "I intend to ensure that the interests of our textile industry and workers are at the heart of our trade agreements" and that "minimizing the impact of future trade deals on the domestic textile industry was at the top of the administration's agenda."

An unprecedented surge in Chinese and Vietnamese imports during 2002 and into 2003 led to appeals to the government to use the China textile safeguard as well as to impose tight quota limits on imports from Vietnam. The failure of the government to act effectively in either case has cost the loss of thousands of additional U.S. textile jobs.

(Source: ATMI)

Statistics of US Textile Industry