DESPITE BEIJING'S JITTERS, TEXTILE EXPORTS THRIVE

DESPITE BEIJING'S JITTERS, TEXTILE EXPORTS THRIVE

China's exports of textiles and garments, its largest single category, continue to flourish despite regular hand-wringing in Beijing over perceived difficulties at home and abroad.

Figures from the China National Textile Council show the country exported $17.84 billion worth of textiles and garments in the first half of 1995, an increase of 19.4 percent from a year earlier.The United States ranked third as a market, taking $1.64 billion worth, or 9 percent of China's total textile and garment exports.

Hong Kong remained the leading outlet at $6.33 billion, or 35.5 percent. Japan came second at $3.52 billion (19.7 percent) and the European Union fourth with $1.39 billion (7.8 percent). Canada placed eighth at $178 million (1 percent).

China frequently bemoans the state of its textile and garment sector, citing high costs of production and unfair trade barriers abroad. The United States is regularly criticized for the latter because it cuts China's quotas in response to perceived cheating.

The figures, however, suggest things can't be all that bad. In the first four months of the year, textile exports grew 27.6 percent to $10.9 billion, figures from the textile council show. Clothing exports climbed 11.2 percent to $6.5 billion.

China said early this month it is formulating new strategies for textile exports "to cope with the latest forms of trade barriers characterized by technological standards, anti-dumping and anti-subsidy suits."

The council, formerly the ministry of textiles, said efforts will focus on improvement of quality and technological content and on development of processing and manufacturing of high value-added products.

Stress will be laid on production in small batches but large varieties and on faster delivery.

The country aims to achieve textile export volume of $35 billion in 1996 and between $50 billion and $55 billion in 2000, which would be more than 10 percent of the current global total.

Du Yuzhou, vice chairman of the textile council, said supplies of cotton and man-made fiber will be "sufficient to fuel sustained growth of the industry for the rest of the year."

He said the prices of raw materials would not fluctuate as they did in the first half because of a guaranteed domestic yield and the expected arrival of cotton and man-made fiber imports.

Mr. Du urged firms to focus on restructuring and upgrading to stop profits declining. In the first six months, most textile enterprises reported falling profits and growing stockpiles of some products.

The official attributed that mainly to price increases in raw materials. Cotton prices surged 40 percent over the 1994 period and those of synthetic fiber 60 percent.

Wu Wenying, president of the textile council, wants tighter control over textile output, with production "organized according to market needs."

Output of cloth reached 9.5 billion meters (10.3 billion yards), up 7.5 percent, and chemical fibers 1.39 million metric tons, up 3.3 percent, in the first part of the year.

Ms. Wu said unchecked increases in production led to sales of some products becoming dull with inventories growing. The sluggards include yarn, cloth, ramie cloth, silk, silk products and towels.

The official said the principle should be to increase production of fast- selling products, limit that of products slow movers and halt the real

duds.