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NEWS RELEASE 03-104; OCTOBER 29, 2003
October 29, 2003
News Release 03-104
Inv. No. 332-449
ITC ISSUES 2002-03 REPORT ON CERTAIN WOOL ARTICLES
The U.S. market for worsted wool fabrics that are cut and sewn into men's (and boys') tailored
clothing in the United States fell in 2002, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission
(ITC) in its report U.S. Market Conditions for Certain Wool Articles in 2002-03.
The ITC estimated that the U.S. market for the subject fabrics decreased from 13-14 million
square meters in 2001 to 12.5 million square meters in 2002. The decline in demand reflected a
decrease in domestic production of men's tailored clothing, competition from imports of both the
fabrics and tailored clothing, and uncertain economic conditions.
The ITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, released a public version of the
report today. The report is the first of two issued as part of the ITC's general factfinding
investigation, U.S. Market Conditions for Certain Wool Articles in 2002-04 (Investigation No.
332-449), which was conducted at the request of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
As requested by the USTR, the ITC is providing information on U.S. market conditions for men's
worsted wool tailored clothing, worsted wool fabrics used in such clothing, and inputs used in
such fabrics. This report provides the requested data for 2002 and year-to-date 2003. Highlights
of the annual report follow.
- U.S. demand for men's wool tailored clothing generally declined during the period covered
by the report, reflecting the popularity of casual dress in the workplace and weak and
uncertain economic conditions. In general, the decrease in demand for coarse-micron tailored
clothing more than offset the increase in demand for fine-micron clothing. Imports supplied
most of the U.S. market for such clothing.
- A number of U.S. tailored clothing manufacturers contacted by ITC staff reported that they
experienced a continuing decline in sales, pressure from retailers to reduce prices, and import
competition. The manufacturers also attributed the decline in their domestic production to
insufficient quantities and varieties of cost-competitive fabrics available in the United States
compared with Canada and Mexico, major suppliers of tailored clothing that benefit from
preferential market access under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
According to the manufacturers, enactment of the Trade Act of 2002 that expanded trade
benefits for fine-micron fabrics improved their competitiveness in clothing made from such
fabrics, but high U.S. import tariffs on coarse-micron fabrics continue to put them at a
competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis their counterparts in Canada and Mexico.
- U.S. production capacity for worsted wool fabrics in 2002 declined from the 2001 level to
about 21 million square meters, although this figure may overstate the actual level of capacity
that may be available for the tailored clothing manufacturers. A significant increase in
purchases of domestic fabrics for the manufacture of men's tailored clothing in the United
States is unlikely, since U.S. clothing manufacturers seek access to fabrics from many
different mills worldwide. Domestic clothing manufacturers seek to minimize their
dependence on any one supplier, thereby spreading financial risk, and to obtain diversity of
fabrics, because no one mill in the United States or abroad can design or make the range of
fabrics necessary to ensure product differentiation.
- The Trade and Development Act of 2000, as amended by the Trade Act of 2002, created two
tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for the purpose of reducing import tariffs on worsted wool fabrics
for use in men's tailored clothing for 5 years through 2005. For 2002, the first TRQ permitted
3.5 million square meters of "coarse-micron" fabrics to enter at 18.4 percent ad valorem, and
the other permitted 2.5 million square meters of "fine-micron" fabrics to enter free of duty.
Imports in excess of these quantities were subject to the normal trade relations duty rate of
27.2 percent ad valorem.
U.S. Market Conditions for Certain Wool Articles in 2002-03 (Investigation No. 332-449, USITC
Publication 3641, October 2003) will be posted in the Publications section of the ITC's Internet
site at www.usitc.gov. A printed copy may be requested by calling 202-205-1809 or by writing to
the Office of the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington
DC 20436. Requests may be faxed to 202-205-1821.
ITC general factfinding investigations, such as this one, cover matters related to tariffs or trade,
and are generally conducted at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senate
Committee on Finance or the House Committee on Ways and Means. The resulting reports
convey the Commission's objective findings and independent analyses on the subjects
investigated. The Commission makes no recommendations on policy or other matters in its
general factfinding reports. Upon completion of each investigation, the ITC submits its findings
and analyses to the requestor. General factfinding investigation reports are subsequently released
to the public unless they are classified by the requestor for national security reasons.
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