With imports supplying most US consumer demand for textiles and apparel, and footwear, it is perhaps not surprising that the US trade deficit in both sectors rose last year.

But according to an annual report on 'Shifts in US Merchandise Trade 2012,' released this week by the US International Trade Commission (USITC), whereas the US trade deficit in textiles and apparel rose by just 0.1% to $94.3bn, the gulf widened by 6% in footwear to $22.9bn.

In textiles and apparel a 1% drop in exports was outweighed the 0.1% decline in imports. And while footwear was hit by a sizable 5% increase in imports and a marginal 1% drop in exports, these exports still came in at the second-highest level in five years.

The largest regional supplier in both sectors was Asia, with China the top supply country.

But here again there were differences, with Asia seeing year-on-year growth of nearly $1bn ($942m) in footwear, but a 0.2% slip in US textile and apparel shipments to $84.7bn.

Likewise, US textiles and apparel imports from China were flat last year, rising just 0.3% to $44.9bn - in marked contrast with the substantial increases seen each year between 2009 and 2011.

And China saw its footwear exports to the US slip 2.7%, although it still accounted for nearly three-quarters (72%) of all footwear imports into the country.

In both cases efforts by producers to diversify their supply chains meant that one of the biggest beneficiaries was Vietnam.

And a 5% rise in consumer spending on both footwear and clothing during the year reflected higher retail prices, as rising materials, transportation, and labour costs were passed on to consumers.

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