By Devin Steele
PITTSBURGH Despite a downturn in exhibitor numbers, the recent International Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo here continued to demonstrate the viability of this specialized sector of the domestic textile industry.
More than 6,500 professionals from a show-record 51 countries converged on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh to view the latest products and services for the specialty fabrics industry and gather information from a variety of seminars. Photo by Devin Steele
After a 20-year hiatus from the Northeast, more than 6,500 professionals from a show-record 51 countries converged on the Steel City to view the latest products and services for the specialty fabrics industry and gather information from a variety of cutting-edge seminars.
Our goal is to make this the marketplace for the specialty fabrics industry and I think were succeeding, said Steve Warner, IFAI president. I think were on the right track. Given the state of the textile industry, I think weve made the right moves to ensure that our part of the industry is being well represented by their trade show.
The show continues to attract new niche producers each year, Warner said. This year, medical product makers made a strong initial impact on the show, a year after fabric structure producers made an impressive debut, he said.
Traffic was brisk during the three-day show, where 413 exhibitors 60 fewer than last year showed off their wares. First-time exhibitors numbered 60, while 40 exhibitors were international.
Rich Stepien of longtime exhibitor Mehler Coated Fabrics provided a robust review of the show. This is the best show weve been to in 25 years, he said.
Warner attributed the vendor attendance decline to a number of reasons, among them being that more than 40 of last years exhibitors are either no longer in business or have merged with other companies, he said. Also, the number of trade shows concentrated within a few-months time period also played a role, he said, as well as the general state of the economy.
John Boyle Bell Jr. (L), chairman of John Boyle & Co., Inc., Statesville, NC, talks with Robert J. Tanen, president of Rand & Oppenheimer Co., Inc., in the John Boyle stand. Photo By Devin Steele
Plus, the Europeans arent as interested in this market as they once were, he said. Theyve cooled down quite a bit on this market. And its too far to travel for a lot of people and too hard to get into this country for others.
Among the highlights of the show was the inaugural Medical Textiles conference and the Safety and Protective Fabrics Conference, Warner said.
Our industry has seen a dramatic shift in the supplier base from traditional textile fabrics to more advanced flexible fabrics, Warner said. Weve seen tremendous growth in niche markets such as medical and military. IFAI Expo addresses our members changing needs by offering timely educational programs along with the opportunity to network and experience emerging products.
More than 1,200 participants attended more than 17 business and market specific educational tracks and conferences.
This years keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Gates, president of Texas A&M University and former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, covered Living in a Secure World.
After warming the crowd with some insider Washington jokes, Gates addressed three main topics: terrorism, rogue states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Gates also touched on globalized crime, foreign government-sponsored targeted espionage and the erosion of the U.S. ability to produce manufactured/industrial products.
By Devin Steele
PITTSBURGH Harrell Ligon, president of textile industry equipment supplier Lang Ligon & Co. of Greenville, SC, joined the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo this year as a means of plumbing a new potential market, he said.
Lang Ligon & Co. Inc.s Harrell Ligon (L) of Greenville, SC, is with Giancula Zappa of partner ELCU SEU Impianti, Milan, Italy, in the Lang Ligon booth. Photos by Devin Steele
During his first IFAI Expo here recently, he said the decision appears to have been a wise one.
Its been a good show for us, said Ligon, whose company designs and builds a complete line of weaving creels and feeder stands for rapier, projectile, and air/water jet machines for traditional textile manufacturers. Were showing a type of machine that this sector is still so manual in, and they dont know about it. For me, its fun to show them the product and hear them say wow.
Lang Ligon & Co., which counts Italy-based Testa S.p.A. among companies it represents in this hemisphere, introduced to the specialty fabrics industry Testas automated cutting and wrapping systems. It also had a representative from Italy-based partner ELCU in its stand to show its table sewing machines and hand-held sewing machines.
Ligon said he had seen a number of familiar faces at the IFAI Expo, some of whom he didnt expect to see.
Ive seen a lot of old customers from 30 years back who are making some strange fabrics now and having fun selling something, he said. But theyre still around. Theyre making something completely different than they were a few years ago, and theyre positive and upbeat.
So these guys, when they find their niche, they go. Folks come here with ideas and with problems. And theyre good ideas and good problems because a lot of them are expanding. So thats a breath of fresh air.
Following are reports from other selected exhibitors.
Shuford Mills, Hickory, NC, a longtime yarn spinner and weaver for two decades, has been transitioning into the industrial fabrics sector for several years now, and the move seems to be paying off, according to Allen Barwick, president.
Allen Barwick, president of Shuford Mills Inc., Hickory, NC, welcomes visitors to his companys stand. (L-R) Barwick; Francis Vergara of Dura Cord, Greenville, NC, which provides weaving services for Shuford; Rod Chaney and Mark Hatton of Acrylic Fibers Corp. (AFCO); and Chip Butler of Service Thread, Charlotte, NC.
Its a long-term process, he said. I wish we could say that 10 years ago, we had said we were going to get out of a lot of commodity businesses and move into specialty areas. We did it to some extent. But weve been looking for different niches. I think anybody whos in business today is going to tell you that, or else theyre pretty much gone.
The company has become well-known in this sector with its Outdura performance fabrics for the outdoor market. But recently, Shuford has begun to expand into fabrics for the sunroom and family rooms. The company also has moved into some medical fabric and industrial military applications.
With that, you have a color coordination effort moving outside to inside, Barwick said. And also these folks want performance fabrics that will clean up very easily. So its a natural progression for us.
Such an effort has required the company to expand its staff, he added.
Jason Brown (L), an Engineered Fabric sales representative for Kappler, Guntersville, AL, demonstrates an instrument that tests fabric waterfastness in the Shuford Mills booth. Watching the demonstration are Simon Gibbons (C) of Ravensworth and Andrew Melville of Whitford Plastics, both based in the U.K.
Our biggest investment there was in hiring the right kind of people who brought a sense of entrepreneurship into our business, Barwick said. And I think niche producers are going to need that type of design influence and ingenuity in order to seek out what it is the market is not getting that its willing to pay for.
At the IFAI Expo, Shuford Mills launched its Outdura Trio performance fabrics for use by marine fabricators, manufacturers of awnings and canopies and other applicable industries. The solution-dyed acrylic/ProVent® polyester fabric is breathable yet waterproof, according to Jeff Jimison, director of sales and marketing, Outdoor Fabrics, Outdura.
As far as we know, there are no other fabrics out there with an acrylic base that are both waterproof and breathable, Jimison said.
Glen Raven, Inc.
The Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC division of Glen Raven, Inc., with the well-established Sunbrella® brand, also is taking its fabrics inside. A longtime manufacturer of fabrics for the marine and awnings markets, the company is manufacturing solution-dyed acrylic, olefin, polyester and blended woven fabrics for interior applications such as residential and boat interiors.
Allen Gant Jr. (C), CEO of Glen Raven, Inc., Glen Raven, NC, greets Wayne Davidson (L) of Awnings of Hudson Valley, Middletown, NY, and Bill Foster of Durasol Systems, Inc., Middletown, NY, in the Glen Raven booth.
When you take these fabrics inside your house, you have the same characteristics as the fabrics outside your house, because theyre made with the same yarn and they wont fade, said Tyron Spooky Apple, advertising manager. You can clean them with bleach. And the colors are phenomenal.
In the past, colors have always followed the lead of attire and clothing, Apple added. It used to be a two-year span. Now, were seeing about a six-month change. So our colors are very up to date. Theyre vibrant, theyre exciting and were excited.
In making the move to interior applications, Glen Raven of Glen Raven, NC, has opened a showroom in nearby High Point, NC, the furniture capital of the world.
Similarly, the company has produced fabrics for boat interiors in a number of colors and styles that coordinate with fabrics for exterior cushions, bimini tops, canopies and the like, said Derek Robinson, Global Marine product manager and International marketing specialist.
Glen Raven also showed its Sur Last® 100 percent solution-dyed polyester fabrics, specifically designed for the trailable boat industry. These all-weather, waterproof fabrics come in 18 colors.
Paige Mullis (L), Marine specialist and a member of the Color Marketing Group and the Marine Design Resource Alliance for Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, shows residential fabrics to visitors
We have a design team that keeps up with the latest fashion styles and trends, noted Paige Mullis, Marine specialist and a member of the Color Marketing Group and the Marine Design Resource Alliance. They also focus on the residential upholstery market, and thats more forward, so to speak, in trends than the marine and casual markets. So we see a lot of direct correlation and more fashion-forward products being offered to our customers.
Glen Raven again highlighted its Sunbrella® Graphics System, which it developed with 3M to apply graphics to fabrics awnings, signs and such. The warranty-backed system, introduced a couple of years ago, continues to expand in the market, according to Doug Dubay, Awning Products & Commercial market manager.
Glen Raven also is in the process of building identity programs with various restaurant chains, through awning designs and colors, Dubay said.
In addition, the company introduced a number of solids and stripes to its awning fabric collection. The most innovative of the new awning patterns is a group called Coastal Stripe, which represents the first time Glen Raven has incorporated slub yarns into awning fabrics, which adds texture and body.
Dickson Industrial Group, sister company of Glen Raven, also showed its solution-dyed acrylic fabrics for awning, marine and banner applications; vinyl-laminated polyester eradicable and non-eradicable back-lit sign and awning fabric; and ink-jet printable fabrics.
A first-time exhibitor, Greensboro, NC-based Unifi used the show to introduce its value-added products, as opposed to its traditional commodity-type yarns, according to Bett Anderson, creative manager.
Unifi Inc.s Allen Smith, sales representative, and Terry Tysinger, industrial and military marketing manager, pose with visitors to their firms booth. (L-R) Adam Scire and Steve Lucier of Deer Creek Fabrics, Stamford, CT; Smith; and Tysinger.
Specifically, the company showed its Satura products, Unifis new family of solution-dyed yarns that can be used in a wide array of saturated colors, and its antimicrobial A.M.Y.® yarns, which provide bacteriostatic, odor-controlling properties that are permanently embedded in the polymer.
Satura yarns provide superior color consistency, possess excellent lightfastness and are bleach cleanable, Anderson pointed out.
The company also exhibited its Sorbtek® yarns, designed to provide moisture management.
End uses for the yarns include automotive upholstery, home furnishings, apparel, hosiery, industrial and medical textiles, among others.
Representatives of American Dornier, Charlotte, NC, include (L-R) Michael Langer, Marty Colwell, Herbert Mueller and Gunter Marquardt.
Weaving machine maker American Dornier, Charlotte, NC, had representatives on hand to explain its new leno technology, among other innovations, according to Marty Colwell, sales manager.
Were also demonstrating our new rapier technology, particularly with the major change that was demonstrated at ATME-I, as well as the air guidance, he said. And then on the air-jet machine is the new servo control, which is the automatic pressure regulation machine. It automatically changes while the machine is running to compensate.
WASHINGTON, DC The United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA) has filed a lawsuit to try to prevent the U.S. government from imposing limits on China-made textile and apparel imports.
In a Dec. 1 statement, USA-ITA said it is suing in order to stop five federal agencies from further review of China safeguard petitions based on threat and market disruption.
The suit was filed with the U.S. Court of International Trade.
Among USA-ITA members reportedly are J.C. Penney Co. and Liz Claiborne, Inc.
The lawsuit filing came a month before worldwide textile and apparel quota for members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are set to expire. At that time, WTO members will be able to ship unlimited amounts of goods to the U.S. without quota restraints, unless special safeguards are imposed.
A coalition of textile, apparel and fiber groups and a union have filed seven threat-based petitions seeking to limit textile and garments from entering the U.S. next year and are planning to file more.
Named in the lawsuit are the Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury, Labor and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Those five agencies have representatives on the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA), which is reviewing textile and apparel safeguard petitions.
The fact that USA-ITA is filing for an injunction that seeks to prevent the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) from considering special textile China safeguard petitions on the basis of threat strongly signals that they believe the textile/apparel/fiber producing/labor coalitions petitions will be approved if they are decided on merits, said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.
In a statement, AMTAC noted that a reading of the Working Party Report that facilitated Chinas accession into the WTO allows countries to implement safeguards on the basis of threat.
USA-ITA is making a legal argument that the U.S. textile industry should only be able to call the fire department after the house has burned down, Tantillo said. AMTAC believes safeguard means calling the fire department to put out the fire while the house is still standing.
Consequently, AMTAC believes that the suit will not succeed because if a safeguard cannot be used on the basis of threat, then no safeguard would exist at all, he added.
GREENVILLE, SC Dr. Michael S. Ellison, interim director at Clemson Universitys School of Materials Science and Education, and Shelby Sheriff, assistant to the director, addressed the Region 3 meeting of the American Textile Machinery Association here on Nov. 4.
Ellison and Sheriff apprised attendees of several educational and research initiatives and other programs being undertaken by faculty and staff.
ATMA Vice Chairman John Jay White (L) of Morrison Textile Machinery Co., Fort Lawn, SC, joins the husband and wife team of John L. Bettger and Dr. Audrey Bettger, both of American Engineering Solutions.
Among key points, they pointed out, Clemson is an integral part of the National Science Foundations Engineering Research Center for Advanced Fibers and Films (CAEFF), which is in its sixth year. More than 36 faculty members from across the university are involved in this effort.
More than $30 million in funding from the National Science Foundation are expected over the next 10 years, the educators noted.
As part of the response of the State of South Carolina to funding of the center by the NSF, along with participation in the center by the school, the state has promised a new building to house the school and the CAEFF.
The new building will have increased space for laboratories and undergraduate and graduate teaching efforts.
In order to attract and support qualified students from the states two-year technical schools, Clemson Univesity also is in collaboration with four two-year institutions, resulting in two-year transfers to the university.
UNCASVILLE, CT The 19th annual business meeting of the American Flock Association took place Oct. 22 at the Mohegan Sun Resort here.
In attendance were 60 members, non-members and guests, including representatives of 23 member companies.
Ed Martin, outgoing chairman of the association, reminisced about the key events he experienced during his long term as chairman, including development of new industry health and safety standards and reaching satisfactory compromises with regulatory agencies after fire and health issues that threatened the flock industry in the U.S.
He also referred to the many pleasant memories he has of AFA events during his term. He then challenged membership with his view of the issues that must be dealt with in the near future in relation to regulation, competition, trade issues and association services to its members.
Executive Director Barrett Ripley reported that key successes in 2004 include a much improved website, 33 percent growth in the number of sales leads passed on to members and successful exhibitions at the Auto Interiors Show and the Hospitality Design EXPO.
Priorities for 2005 include membership retention and growth, expense control and improvement of the website to provide greater service to members.
The association named Thomas Witham of Spectro Coating Corporation, Leominster, MA, as chairman of the Executive Committee for 2005.
In addition to the association business and social program, the members heard presentations from industry and government experts about the state of the industry and heard a panel discussion of the global raw material supply situation as it relates to flock manufacturing.
Patty Adair, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, spoke to the group on current regulatory initiatives on textile flammability.
DyStar set to acquire chemical maker Rotta
FRANKFURT, GERMANY DyStar, one of the worlds textile dyes leaders, has signed a deal to acquire the business activities of the Rotta Group, a global producer of chemical auxiliaries for the textile, leather and paper industries.
DyStar was bought by U.S.-based Platinum Equity this year.
Rotta employs 200 people and serves 1,300 customers in 80 countries.
Rottas portfolio comprises pre-treatment products, dyeing auxiliaries and products for resin finishing, coating and the treatment of wool and garment finishing.
Rotta is an established suppliers whose products fit in well with our portfolio, said Dr. Clemens Willée, CEO of DyStar.
Nat. Starch & Chemicals to sell polymers unit
BRIDGEWATER, NJ National Starch and Chemical Company, a member of the ICI Group, has agreed to sell its U.S., Canadian and European Vinamul emulsion polymers business to Celanese for $208 million. Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals.
The Vinamul emulsion polymers business is a supplier of specialty emulsion polymers for the paper, nonwovens, textiles, paints, adhesives and building products industries. Its product line includes vinyl acetate homopolymer and ethylene vinyl acetate, acrylic and vinyl acrylic emulsions.
The business had 2003 sales of $335 million and operating profit of $18 million. It employs about 600 people, who will transfer to Celanese.
In addition to the products, technologies and goodwill of the emulsion polymers businesses, the agreement includes the sale of parts of land and assets on five sites, including: Meredosia, IL; Boucherville, Quebec; Woodruff, SC; Warrington, United Kingdom; and Geleen, The Netherlands.
Martex Fiber to expand C. American operations
SPARTANBURG, SC Martex Fiber Southern Corporation announced an expansion of its textile brokerage activities and reprocessing of textile waste through a strategic partnership with INVEX, an established Central American based company.
With a marketing agreement to sell several grades of textile waste collected in Honduras and El Salvador, Martex is now also involved in the construction of a new 90,000 square foot refiberization plant in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The plant, with equipment supplied by Martex, will become an extension of Martexs own U.S. fiber recycling operations located here.
In the U.S., Martex has been a leader in the effort to recycle pre-consumer waste into a variety of domestically consumed industrial products. Martex has expanded to Central America to protect its dwindling supply of U.S. textile waste materials, which in their recycled form are valuable to a variety of automotive, bedding, domestic textile and apparel end-users in the U.S. Such users utilize Martexs products for their blowing and garnet operations to make pads, under-carpet, pillow filling and a variety of other applications.
The new facility will collect and process waste from textile mills in Honduras and El Salvador; such waste would typically go to landfill or incineration. After collection, the waste is processed into a fibrous product that is then shipped to the U.S. and other markets worldwide.
Martexs partner in Honduras is INVEX, S. de R.L. Honduras. INVEX is a family owned and operated textile business, operating in both Honduras and El Salvador.
Vinamul Polymers issued U.S. patent
Vinamul Polymers, a business unit of National Starch and Chemical Co., announced that it has been issued a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the use of acrylic copolymers that add a wide range of tailorable abrasive functionality to nonwoven wipes products.
The product produced from this patent, NACRYLIC ABX-30 acrylic polymer, is designed to meet the growing consumer demand for abrasive, scrubbing and scouring wipes in household and personal-care applications and in institutional, food service and industrial markets.
Several suppliers to increase prices
Several industry suppliers announced price hikes.
Honeywell said that its Performance Fibers business is increasing prices on its line of polyester high tenacity industrial fibers in North America by 15 percent, effective Jan. 3. This increase will affect all end uses.
Honeywell recently announced it has reached an agreement to sell Performance Fibers to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, Inc.
Effective Jan. 1, the Dow Emulsion Polymers business is increasing the prices of all latex sold into the carpet industry by 6 cents per dry pound in the U.S. and Canada.
Worldtex, Inc., a leading manufacturer of covered elastic yarns and narrow elastic fabrics, announced that effective Jan. 1, a price increase on all products. The increase will be the first wide ranging price increase in the last 10 years.
FORT MILL, SC Springs Industries said Dec. 1 it plans to close plants in Lyman, SC, and Anderson, SC, early next year, putting 540 people out of work.
Both plants produce bedding products.
The company blamed the decision on import competition from overseas suppliers, particularly China, India and Pakistan.
About 400 people are employed at the Lyman Fabrication Plant, with 140 at the Wamsutta Plant in Anderson. The closings are set to occur Feb. 1.
The increasing import trend affecting some of our products has accelerated this year, due in part to the elimination of quotas at year-end, said Chairman and CEO Crandall Bowles. This has caused even more overseas shopping by our customers. There are products that we can no longer manufacture competitively here in the United States.
Springs will still operate a distribution facility in Lyman that employs about 40 people.
Springs continues to carry out strategies to remain competitive, such as supply chain efficiency, cost reduction, branding, design expertise and partnerships with global producers, the company said.
Springs will continue to both import and manufacture products by maintaining a smaller, more flexible base of domestic operations, Bowles said.
Our customers value excellent service, she said. Fast turnaround capacity in the U.S. will enable us to provide superior service versus a competitor from China.
Last year, Springs closed two of its original plants built in the 1890s, affecting 630 people. Those plants were located in Lancaster, SC, and Fort Mill, SC.
Separately, the company announced the sale of its former Aileen Plant in Biscoe, NC, to Jordan Lumber and Supply, Inc., which plans to use the former textile weaving mill to make commercial grade wood furniture, wall paneling and other specialty wood products.
Springs acquired the Aileen Plant in 1963 and operated it until 2002.
Springs Industries, a privately held company supplies sheets, towels, comforters, blankets, rugs, window treatments and other coordinated home furnishings.
MEMPHIS National Cotton Council Chairman Woody Anderson said Nov. 19 he hoped the creation of a subcommittee to monitor trade policy and trade developments in cotton would not be turned into a sideshow that will take away from the overall goal of comprehensive agricultural trade reform.
The framework calls for a comprehensive agreement involving all three pillars of trade policy affecting agriculture domestic support, export subsidies and market access, Anderson said. A comprehensive agreement on agriculture will lead to reforms by all members in all commodities across all three pillars. The U.S. cotton industry supports a comprehensive agreement; we cannot support an inequitable approach to the agriculture negotiations that seeks to single out our industry unfairly.
It would be a serious error for the subcommittee on cotton to become another tool for self-serving non-governmental organizations to target the U.S. cotton program to the exclusion of all other trade policies that impact world agricultural trade and those that impact trade in cotton products, such as textiles and apparel. Singling out one country or one commodity is counterproductive to the Doha goal of obtaining a comprehensive agreement in agriculture.
The Texas cotton producer also expressed concern with certain inflammatory statements issued by the Ambassador from Benin to the WTO negotiations. The Benin representative to the WTO was quoted as saying the U.S. should live up to the spirit of a deal with poor countries and remove its subsidies on cotton.
Anderson said the Framework Agreement did not obligate the United States or any other country to end any specific domestic agricultural program. There appears to be an attempt by certain individuals and organizations to maneuver the U.S. cotton program into the front of the train that is the Doha round of trade negotiations. I am dismayed that our efforts to work with several West African countries to enhance the returns available to their producers have gone unnoticed by these individuals. I trust that the sentiments of this one representative are not shared by other countries that better understand the economic forces at work in the world cotton market.
BIRMINGHAM, AL A foundation named after an influential textile leader of the 20th century and designed to fund college scholarships for students throughout Alabama has been formed.
J. Craig Smith
The program details for this multi-million dollar program was announced at a kickoff luncheon here on Dec. 2. About 10 scholarships will be awarded for the 2005/2006 school year, increasing in number each year thereafter.
Funding for scholarships was made possible through the J. Craig and Page T. Smith Foundation, an educational scholarship fund designated for Alabamas children especially those who are the first in their families to attend college. The foundation was created by Mignon C. Smith in honor of her parents.
Her father, J. Craig Smith (1905-1977), was president and CEO of Avondale Mills. He was noted for continuing a strong family tradition of integrity in both business and his personal life.
The announcement of the scholarships was held in conjunction with several other announcements. The J. Craig Smith Endowment Chair for Integrity in Business, housed at The University of Alabama, also shared in the kickoff celebration events.
This teaching chair position will focus on business integrity and ethics, fostering moral responsibility and character in the University of Alabamas students.
The luncheon also heralded the debut of a new book, Real Integrity: Fabric of a Life, J. Craig Smith, by author Linda Stephan about the life and lineage of Craig Smith. In a passage from the book, Smith recounts, My grandfather, Gov. B. B. Comer, used to tell me repeatedly that the mind was the laziest part of the human body. He said it is easier to do the hardest physical labor than it is to study. He never quit studying and he did his best to get young people he was interested in to continue their studies.
Smith headed the American Cotton Manufacturers Association (later the American Textile Manufacturers Institute) and was president of the Alabama Cotton Manufacturers Association.
He was the first textile manufacturer to serve as president of the National Cotton Council of America and the first American to head the International Textile Manu- facturers Federation.
WASHINGTON, DC U.S. companies involved in the textile industry have an opportunity to generate new business by taking part in the 14th annual EXINTEX Textiles trade show, March 7-9, 2005 in Puebla, Mexico.
This event, which attracted more than 1,200 exhibitors and more than 27,000 trade visitors to last years event, showcases the best of textiles and finished products, including sheets, bed coverings, towels for home and hospitality markets, curtains and floor coverings.
By 2003 textiles (fibers, home products and garments) had become Mexicos fourth most important manufacturing sector, with total production reaching $18 billion. Despite a depressed global market, home textiles in Mexico continues to show signs of growth.
Worth $650 million in 2002, the whole sector appears to be more resilient to crisis as total exports, including maquilas (goods assembled from imported components), have risen to $431 million, of which 95 percent is sent to NAFTA countries.
With this in mind, the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has granted EXINTEX Textiles 2005 its Trade Fair Certification status, establishing a U.S. Pavilion for small and medium-sized exporters. Companies exhibiting in the U.S. Pavilion will be able to take advantage of the CSs Matchmaking Program, where appointments are pre-scheduled between producers and potential buyers, as well as a series of organized visits to Mexican textile factories.
Commercial Service staff will be on hand at the show to assist U.S. companies seeking distributors, representatives, joint ventures and to offer guidance to Mexican visitors seeking to import textiles, apparel, yarns and machinery from the United States.
By Odyll Santos
Criticism of the U.S. cotton program continues amid the effort to reform global agricultural trade, as developing countries seek the elimination of the U.S. subsidies they blame for hurting their own cotton businesses. But the U.S. also continues to fight back. As the U.S. appeals a World Trade Organization panels decision against its domestic cotton program in a case brought by Brazil, U.S. cotton officials cite the erroneous findings on which the ruling was based.
Bill Gillon, legal counsel for the National Cotton Council, said the panel hearing Brazils complaint against the U.S. cotton program was influenced by the idea that big is bad, according to a recent report from the Delta Farm Press. The panel focused on the fact that not only was the U.S. a major cotton producer, but it spent a large amount of funds on the cotton program.
U.S. subsidy numbers, in terms of dollars spent, increased dramatically (during a portion of the applicable time period) as prices fell to very low levels, Gillon said in remarks at a recent luncheon of the National Agri-Marketing Association in Memphis, TN. Essentially, this panel never got over these facts. No matter what legal analysis or legal construct the United States presented to the panel, it seemed it always found a way back to comparing dollars and that the United States is the big player in the market and must be guilty.
The U.S. is appealing the WTO panels decision, challenging several of its conclusions, including the point that U.S. subsidies have suppressed world market prices for cotton. Under WTO rules, the appellate body has up to three months to study U.S. objections to the ruling and issue its determination.
One area of the panels ruling concerned the so-called peace clause from the 1994 agreement creating the WTO. The peace clause generally prohibits challenges to domestic and export agriculture subsidies during the agreements implementation period. The panel said the U.S. could not use the clause in defense of its cotton program because the subsidies exceeded levels seen in 1992.
The panel ruled that the U.S. marketing loan program and the counter-cyclical program, which pay producers when commodity prices fall below a threshold, negatively affected the Brazilian cotton industry and the world market. It made the same ruling for Step 2, which pays domestic users and exporters when U.S. cotton prices exceed a threshold, promoting use of U.S. cotton even if it is priced higher than foreign growths.
Gillon said the panel went along with Brazils interpretation of price suppression, that price suppression could occur whether prices were high or low if these programs were putting immense pressure on world prices. He also pointed out that the panel did not use analyses submitted by the NCC and others on the international price impact of the U.S. cotton program.
Meanwhile, U.S. cotton officials hope that the creation of a subcommittee to monitor cotton trade policy and trade developments will result in fair treatment of their industry. The NCC said it hopes the subcommittee would not become another tool for non-governmental organizations to target the U.S. cotton program to the exclusion of all other policies that impact world trade in agriculture and in cotton products.
Apart from Brazil, countries in West Africa have criticized the U.S. for its cotton subsidies.
However, cotton officials pointed out that crop prices have been affected by record world crop production resulting from good weather and increased foreign acreage. As 2004 attests, even modest price increases can cause countries outside the United States to significantly increase acreage, dampening every price rebound, said NCC CEO Mark Lange. The problems in world cotton markets are not caused by the United States cotton program.
VISIT THE website of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (www.usaita.com) and the first thing you notice is a clock counting down the life left in the current textile and apparel quota system. The real-time clock is marking not only the year, months and days until the quota system goes the way of the dodo, but also the hours, minutes and seconds. As you watch time fly before your eyes, you get the impression that this association is as proud as a peacock over this electronic ticker. Makes you wonder if a cuckoo wearing a party hat will pop out when zeroes appear across the board.
For years now, the importing community has succeeded in clipping the wings of U.S. manufacturers trying to compete in a global marketplace by pushing for trade liberalization that has unfairly favored foreign producers over domestic industrialists. In doing so, these importers have ruffled the feathers of more than a few U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers.
If youre an American manufacturer trying to overcome the odds and succeed in this worldwide trading system, this countdown clock concept should stick in your craw. Its these importers way of saying, take that. Or better yet, Good-bye, U.S; ni hao, China.
THE IMPORTERS created another flap last week by filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government in an attempt to prevent five government agencies from reviewing threat-based safeguard petitions filed by a coalition of U.S. textile and apparel interests. Despite the fact that China agreed to rules allowing safeguards to be implemented based on the threat of market disruption, the importers filed the suit arguing that, in the words of Auggie Tantillo of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), the U.S. textile industry should only be able to call the fire department after the house has burned down. AMTAC believes safeguard means calling the fire department to put out the fire while the house is still standing.
Never mind the fact that China has lied, stolen and cheated its way to the top of the manufacturing world. Doesnt matter to these importers. They would rather see American ex-textile worker Michael Ledbetter of Greer, SC, lacking the means to feed his family anymore than Deng Xiao Ping working on the family farm in Yangshuo instead of the new, modern textile plant in the Pearl River Delta region. Not if it means a few pennies being scraped off the bottom line of American importers.
THE MIGHTY DRAGON has been breathing fire down our backs for years and is set to emerge from its cave on January 1. The prospect is frightening unless youre an importer champing at the bit to aid and abet a country that undervalues its currency, engages in intellectual property theft, transships its goods, closes its market, et al. And, because U.S. manufacturers complain about these activities, theyre called whiners by importers and retailers. Even China has gotten into the act of bashing domestic producers, according to a recent Financial Times report, which quoted China Deputy Governor Li Ruogu as saying, Chinas custom is that we never blame others for our own problem. For the past 26 years, we never put pressure or problems on to the world. The U.S. has the reverse attitude whenever they have a problem, they blame others.
Soon after the countdown clock stops, winners and losers will begin to emerge. Among the losers could very well be much of whats left of the U.S. textile industry. But, in the long run, American consumers will win!, importers chirp.
Sure, if theyre interested in a bunch of China-made cheap (bleep).