While the US textile industry has seen some difficult economic times, there are opportunities for the industry to increase fabric and yarn sales under the new Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, the president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) said at the 94th Annual Meeting of the North Carolina Manufacturers Association.

ATMI President Roger W. Chastain, Mount Vernon Mills, Inc, told attendees that: "textile and apparel imports for the first six months of the year were at an all-time high of $37bn and that US textile industry sales in 1999 totaled $60.8bn, five per cent below 1998 and the lowest figure since 1991." In addition, he noted that industry profits in 1999 were $770m, down 63 per cent from the previous year, and the lowest level since 1990.

"But we are surrounded by a lot of opportunities for this industry," he stressed, "and we are on the threshold of some real growth for US textiles." Chastain was referring to the recently enacted Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act that requires the use of US yarn and fabric for apparel made in the nations of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) to qualify for duty-free, quota-free status.

Chastain said that the enactment of the CBI legislation was an important step in extending North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-type benefits beyond Mexico and Canada to the Caribbean. "NAFTA has enabled the US textile industry to displace apparel imports from the Far East. Clothing imports from Mexico and the Caribbean countries are up significantly and much of that apparel consists of US fabric, which is good for us."

He also cited a study by Nathan Associates, a management consulting firm, which found that US yarn and fabric makers could see an additional $8.5bn in sales in the Caribbean region over the next several years. "Our industry must be ready to move quickly to take advantage of the new CBI law, and to develop economic partnerships in both Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a sound strategy for our industry to surround itself with apparel manufacturers in Canada, Mexico and the CBI," he said.

About the ATMI
The American Textile Manufacturers Institute is the national trade association for the U.S. textile industry. Member companies operate in more than 30 states and process nearly two thirds of all textile fibers consumed by plants in the United States. For more news and information, visit ATMI's website at www.atmi.org.