Capitol Comments

2012 Roll Goods Import/Export Data

By Jessica Franken, Director of Government Affairs & Dawnee Giammittorio, Associate Director of Government Affairs | May 8, 2013

White House notifies Congress of intent to launch U.S.-EU free trade talks.

Exports of U.S. roll goods in 2012 (categorized under Harmonized Tariff Schedule heading 5603) increased almost 10 percent over 2011 volumes, totaling 318.6 million kilograms, according to annual trade statistics recently released by the U.S. government.  This number is even greater than the 2010 record high of 301.7 million set in 2010 when world trade surged dramatically as the world recovered from the “Great Recession.” (See Table 1) With the increase in volume, also came an increase in the value of exported roll goods—up 5.7 percent from $1.67 billion in 2011 to $1.77 billion for 2012.  (See Table 2) Whether the 2012 expansion is a result of U.S. exporters taking advantage of the economic slow down in Europe or the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative, the results are encouraging for the nonwovens industry.

The data for roll goods imported to the U.S. followed a similar pattern, again increasing in volume and dollar value from 2011 totals and surpassing the highs from 2010.  The volume for imports in 2012 grew 2.5 percent from 190.0 to 195.7 million kilograms and the value of imports increased 6.1% from $905 million to $961 million.

Import/Export Markets

As Table 3 shows, just under half (48.4 percent) of U.S. roll goods exports remained in the U.S.-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) territory during 2012.  While the share of total exports only increased 2.4 percent over 2011 levels, volumes exported to Mexico and Canada increased 19 percent and 11 percent respectively. 

As Table 4 shows, Canada and Mexico continue as the top two destinations for U.S. nonwoven roll goods, but trade with China also remains strong.  Although the volume exported to China continues to decline, dropping 7.3 percent from 2011 levels and 4.1 percent the previous year, China remains number on the list of top 10 destinations for roll goods exports.  Meanwhile, U.S. exports to Japan rose slightly last year following a sharp decline in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami. Other notable changes include an impressive 31.4 percent increase in exports to Germany, a slight decrease in exports to Brazil after a 37.8 percent increase in 2011, and the disappearance of Colombia from the top 10 export destinations after a dramatic 91 percent increase placed it at seventh on the list for 2011.

As far as imports, China continues to be, by a wide margin, the largest importer of roll goods to the U.S.  Meanwhile, imports from India fell by 12 percent in 2012 after increasing its volume by 77 percent in 2011 after a 138 percent increase in 2010.  U.S. imports from France saw a significant increase of 29.6 percent in 2012 and imports from Israel stabilized at 14.5 million kilograms after falling more than 25 percent in 2011.

The 2012 data show a strong world market for nonwoven roll goods, with the value and volumes traded increasing around the world.  The Obama Administration has made growing trade a priority and has launched initiatives on many different fronts, including finalizing free trade pacts with Korea, Panama and Colombia last year, continuing efforts in the multilateral and growing Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and more recently, launching negotiations between the U.S.-European Union. For a dynamic, adaptable and innovative industry such as ours which thrives on free and fair trade, our recent global trade performance suggests we have a bright future ahead.

White House notifies Congress of intent to launch U.S.-EU free trade talks.

President Obama’s Administration notified Congress March 20 of its intent to begin talks towards a U.S.-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations are expected to begin sometime this summer.

A transatlantic FTA would create the largest free trade area in the world, covering approximately 40 percent of global commerce, and potentially generating more than $5 trillion in trade, investment and sales. Trade between the U.S and Europe exceeds $600 billion per year, compared with trade of $500 billion annually with China. But more importantly for U.S. companies, Europe buys much more from the U.S. than China does--U.S. exports of goods to Europe for the first nine months of 2012 totaled $200 billion, while China imported merely $79 billion of American goods. According to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, eliminating tariffs through a FTA would increase two-way trade by $120 billion within five years and add $180 billion to the combined GDP of the U.S. and the EU.

The TTIP would be particularly beneficial for the U.S. nonwovens industry since it would presumably correct an imbalance in nonwoven roll goods tariff rates.  Currently, exports of nonwovens to Europe face a tariff of 4.3 percent while imports to the U.S. are duty free.  A free trade agreement would also presumably eliminate U.S. tariffs on vital intermediates like viscose rayon staple fiber that are frequently imported from Europe, thankfully reducing the need for the uncertain and usually frustrating Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) process.

Given the TTIP’s potential magnitude, INDA and its European counterpart EDANA have recently joined efforts in forming an International Trade and Trends Advisory Board (T&T Board), which will consist of governmental affairs personnel from both associations and representatives from each group’s member companies. The T&T Board will work to promote the free and fair trade of nonwovens globally starting with an active role in the upcoming TTIP talks.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) April 1 published a request for comments addressing U.S. negotiating priorities and announced it will hold a public hearing on May 29 and 30, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Comments may be submitted until May 10, 2013. INDA will submit comments articulating the nonwoven fabrics industry’s desire for a TTIP that immediately eliminates tariff imbalances for nonwoven roll goods, protects intellectual property and more.

To view details about the USTR comment request and May public hearing, visit:

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