Texfact of the Week: Technical Textiles account for 40 percent of turnover for the USA’s textile factories

The Land of Stars & Stripes & Technical Textiles – the USA have massively modernised their textile industry and are investing in technical and high-value textiles. With some success: in 2013 the sector achieved growth of almost five percent. One figure, however, continues to give rise to concern.

The US textile industry has long been the problem child of the domestic economy: no modern plant, too great a focus on cotton and little foreign investment. This has been changing over the past ten years. Many companies, especially from Asia, have been investing in new factories and equipment, with the south east of the USA profiting in particular. It is here that 32 percent of all textile factories are situated – and the proximity to their major export country, Mexico, is an additional boost to production.

Technical textiles are a huge beneficiary of this change. In recent years, the segment has been responsible for 40 percent of all turnover in USA textile factories. More and more foreign automobile manufacturers and aircraft engineering companies with offices in the USA are driving the demand for technical textiles and textile machinery.  The need for these high-value textiles will gradually release the industry from its dependency on clothing – at least according to the summary of a recent study by the GTAI advisory body (Germany Trade and Invest).

All in all, claims the GTAI, sales of textiles and textile products rose by 4.7 percent to almost USD 57 billion last year. So everything is fine and dandy? Not exactly! When it comes to textiles and textile machinery, the USA record a marked deficit in the balance of trade. As a country, they import far more products than they export. And the majority of those products come from China and India; in 2013 barely eight percent came from the EU.

At the end of the day, the question remains: What does the future hold? If TTIP, the free trade agreement between the EU and the USA, materialises, then prospects for the textile industry look fairly good. The American sector would then have access to the European textile market, which resembles their domestic market. As a result, various restrictions and conditions could be easily brought into line. Import and export duty on textile products, of anything between 4 and 12 percent, would disappear, too. And, in all this, it is the technical textiles segment that is set to benefit most of all. But the USA’s poor trade balance will remain: according the GTAI, European suppliers are just too strong when it comes to labour-intensive products.

For those who would like more information on this topic, the GTAI study (in German only) can be found on the website.

Foreign trade with textiles and products from textile factories (Source: U.S. International Trade Commission, GTAI)

Category

2012

2013

January – April 2014

Change 2014/13 (in %) *)

Imports

24,9

26,1

8,6

4,4

– including, from EU-28

2,2

2,3

0,8

9,0

Exports

12,3

12,8

4,2

3,3

– including to EU-28

1,0

1,0

0,4

7,6

Balance of trade

-12,6

-13,3

-4,4

– of which trade with EU-28

-1,2

-1,3

-0,4

Marc Chalupsky

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