'There's no serious increase in garment industry protectionism' - Mr Flanagan
Mr. Mike Flanagan, Clothesource CEO
Amid mounting claims of “protectionism”, a new survey shows the world's leading textile and garment importers have abolished more barriers to trade in the past six months than ever before.
The new, 2009, edition of the Clothesource Guide to Apparel Trade Rules surveyed rule and policy changes made since October 2008 by the 20 leading clothes importing countries and the 30 leading garment exporters. Contrary to claims of” growing protectionism”, it found more barriers to garment importing had been removed, and more import duties lowered, than in any other six months on record.
The US has abandoned quota restrictions on Chinese clothing and taken away its government's right to start anti-dumping cases against Vietnam without any evidence US businesses want them. That's why Vietnam and China have increased sales to the US. America's made it easier for Haiti, Botswana, Mauritius and Namibia to get duty-free access for clothes they sell the US (hence Haiti's growing share), and also implemented duty-free trade agreements with Costa Rica and Peru.
The 27 nations of the EU have abandoned the requirement for Chinese clothing imports to have import licences, abandoned anti-dumping duty on Pakistani bedlinen, extended its GSP+ duty-free access to Paraguay and given Sri Lanka another year of GSP+ access while human rights allegations are investigated
Japan has implemented free trade agreements with most of South East Asia, and has begun giving duty-free access to a growing proportion of SE Asian clothing – which is why so many non-Chinese Asian countries have increased sales to Japan. Australia and New Zealand have signed a similar agreement with these countries.
Canada has started to implement Free Trade Agreements giving duty-free access to Colombia and Peru. And South Africa has scrapped the quotas that limited Chinese clothes imports.
Even low-income garment-exporting countries have generally lowered barriers to trade, led by Mexico which began a four-year programme of import duty reductions at the beginning of the year. With Indonesia and Brazil rapidly scrapping or modifying plans for tougher barriers after international protests, countries from Malaysia to Colombia have been cutting import duties on raw materials for garment production.
Successful garment exporting countries – like China and Vietnam – have concentrated on ensuring their banks provide finance to local manufacturers hit by slow-paying or defaulting Western customers, rather than blocking other countries' imports. Only Turkey and India have put their energy into increasing import barriers, rather than their factories' ability to improve their competitiveness.
“Contrary to the myth, there's no serious increase in garment industry protectionism” said Mike Flanagan, Clothesource CEO. For apparel buyers and sellers, the real challenge is keeping track of how the last six months' bonfire of restrictions changes factories' relative competitiveness.
“The new, 2009 edition of the industry-leading Clothesource Guide to Apparel Trade Rules provides buyers and sellers alike with the essential tools for understanding how these rule changes affect the competitiveness of the hundred leading garment-exporting countries.