The Mexican textile industry has been the sector worst hit by the US economic slowdown. Five thousand jobs in the area have already been lost as exports dry up.

The clothing chamber of commerce in Mexico has stated that there are 13,500 companies working in the sector with 3,018 members of the national textiles chamber. The sector employs 700,000 workers full-time.

Since the establishment of NAFTA, Mexican textile exports have grown at a rate of 12 per cent each year, but this year only four per cent growth is projected at best, although a smaller figure is more likely - perhaps even as low as one per cent.

Year 2000 exports totalled $8bn, compared to pre-NAFTA days of $1.3bn. The textile sector contributes three per cent to Mexico's GDP.

The regions worst affected are Laguna, Yucatan and Puebla.