Competition over textile quotas threatens hundreds of millions of jobs
Beijing (AsiaNews) The tug of war between China, the United States and the European Union over textile quotas is a global problem that has implications for the livelihoods of hundreds of million workers world-wide.
According to Lu Jianhua, director of the foreign trade department of China's Ministry of Commerce's, the textile industry directly employed 18 million workers, but it did business with other industries employing more than 100 million.
Since the beginning of the year, the new, less restrictive rules of the World Trade Organisation have enabled Chinese textiles to flood European and US markets.
Both the US and the EU are concerned that the flood is threatening millions of jobs in both areas.
The US, which once had 2.5 million garment workers, now only has about 500,000.
In the first quarter of this year, 17,200 American garment workers have lost their jobs and 14 US textile mills have had to shut down
The Chinese juggernaut25 per cent of the world productionis also sweeping the textile sector throughout Asia and Africa.
Bangladesh, where textiles represent 70 per cent of exports, could lose 1.8 million jobs.
Cambodia, where textile constitutes 94 per cent of total export, 240,000 people could be out of work, not to mention the entire sector which could go out of business.
In tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka, 17,000 jobs are at stake.
Africa, too, is exposed to the Chinese textile typhoon. In South Africa, 30,000 textile workers were laid off in the first months of 2005. In Lesotho, another 10,000 jobs were lost and seven companies had to close.
Lu Jianhua said Beijing would deal responsibly on trade disputes and would practise self-restraint by limiting exports whilst, at the same time, working to improve product quality.
Last week, China's Finance Ministry announced higher export tariffs on 74 categories of textile products in an effort to ease trade tensions with the US and the European Union. However, the latter do not appear satisfied.
For Vice-Finance Minister Li Yong, the dispute between China and the EU will be discussed at next month's ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) of finance ministers in Tianjin.