THE American Wool Council, which has taken part in Interstoff Asia for the last five years, is linking up with the Cotton Council International (CCI) to feature 'Natural Fibres from America'. 'We believe that Hong Kong is the decision-making centre for Asia, excluding Japan. And Interstoff Asia is the best fabric show outside Japan,' said Rick Wertheimer, the American Wool Council's market service director. 'We have built our name through the show because US manufacturers can use it to show their products to a select market.' Mr Wertheimer said that this was the first time his organisation had co-operated in this manner with CCI. But it was a natural addition to the Wool Council's normal activities. The theme of natural fibres is an obvious one because synthetic fibres is the competition. The CCI will feature six exhibitors, while the Wool Council will have 11 companies which will be taking part. 'Our exhibitors are committed to export and are small-and medium-size companies, so they are more flexible and have innovative ideas and novelty products,' Mr Wertheimer said. 'We are not competing with Chinese companies that can produce, for example, navy blue fabric cheaper than ours. But we can compete on specialty items because the capacity and technology is not available here yet.' US wool exports are up world-wide. The council's aim is to keep the manufacturing base at home and to export higher value goods, according to Mr Wertheimer. 'We are pushing on a high-value basis up to the fabric stage, rather than selling raw wool, and we are looking for a niche which US wool will fit best.' Niche markets include woven items, novelty fabrics and yarns which are American in style. They include a new washable fabric designed for casual wear which will be displayed at the Natural Fibres pavilion. The fabric can be worn to work or on the weekends. It is especially useful in women's cycling apparel. Another specialty product is dye-active wool. The yarns are treated and woven or knitted. They are not dyed until a decision on colour is reached. Exports of US woollen goods total 35,000 tonnes a year, 50 per cent of which go to Asia. Mr Wertheimer said he hoped exports would double in the next three years, especially as Hong Kong, China and Korea imported more. 'Korean imports of US yarns and fabrics are rising at the rate of 50 per cent a year,' he said. 'Koreans are attuned to fashion, particularly wool. On a per capita useage basis, the country uses more wool than the US. 'Income is rising and fashion is important. Although China produces wool, only 25 per cent is good enough for apparel.' Mr Wertheimer said a survey showed that 20 per cent of China's weaving machines were pre-1949. A further 25 per cent were are least 20 years old and only five per cent were suitable for the hi-tech era.