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China may lose edge in global textile business
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China, the world's biggest textile producer, may become less of a force in the global garments trade as rising labor and raw material costs are eroding its dominant position, an industry executive said.


"China is gradually losing its traditional competitiveness in production costs, while other Asian countries are speeding up development," Sun Ruizhe, vice president of the China National Textile & Apparel Council, said at a conference in Beijing yesterday.


China's textile industry faces rising production costs pressured by higher wages and a stronger currency. The government has cut tax rebates on exports and tightened lending to redirect investments to more efficient and higher-value sectors, Bloomberg News said.


"China will only be a textile export juggernaut for a fixed period of time, perhaps 10 to 15 years," Robert Antoshak, president of Nashville-based cotton information provider Globecot Inc said at the conference.


Other Asian nations, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, will take some of China's overseas business, while Vietnam and Cambodia may become future apparel "tigers," Antoshak said in an interview.


"Production costs have increased in terms of raw material, labor, energy and environmental protection," Sun said. "Rising interest rates and capital shortages also affect the industry."


"China is the main garment exporter, and the value of exports last year accounted for 30.6 percent of the global total," Sun said. The China Textile & Apparel Council represents the country's textile-related industries in contacts with government and international organizations.


China's textile industry output in 2007 may reach 3.05 trillion yuan (US$419 billion), a 22-percent increase year on year, according to a report released on December 27 by the Textile Industry Association.


China exported US$156.6 billion worth of clothing and textile products in the first 11 months of last year, up 20 percent from a year earlier, the top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, said on December 21.


China's growth in exports of apparel may slow after 2010, and its purchases of shoes and clothing from overseas may rise as domestic consumers become more affluent, Antoshak said. The expected rise in China's consumption may be offset by declines in developed countries, he added.


China's cotton imports fell 37 percent to 2.14 million tons in the first 11 months of 2007 from a year ago, customs data show.


(Shanghai Daily January 9, 2008)

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