TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Kenya's Exporters Want Another Four-Year Apparel Treaty

Monday, 20 October 2003

Source: The Nation (Nairobi)

The Export Processing Zones want the African Growth and Opportunity Act renewed for another four years.

The move would help create about 200,000 more jobs from the current 37,000, said the chairman of the Kenya Apparel Manufacturers Exporters Association, Mr Jaswinder Bedi.

The current four-year treaty to export textiles to the US is scheduled to end in October next year.

Mr Bedi urged the Government to help the EPZ negotiate with the United States for the extension of the treaty by another term.

"We are in a dilemma about what to do if the contract is not renewed. It's highly crucial that we get an extension for the industry to survive," said the official.

He was speaking during the signing of a collective bargaining agreement between the EPZ apparel manufacturers and exporters group and the Tailors and Textile Workers Union (TTWU) at the Waajiri House in Nairobi.

Present was Labour permanent secretary Deborah Ongewe, Federation of Kenya Employers executive director Tom Owuor and the secretary general of the TTWU, Mr William Muga Aketch. The Central Organisation of Trade Unions was represented by the assistant secretary general, Mr George Odiko.

The EPZ, which started with only four factories in 2000 has about 40. Exports to the US markets, under the Agoa treaty amounts to US$300 million annually.

"There is a growth opportunity but we are having hiccups and uncertainty over the treaty. That is why we are appealing to the Government to intercede," said Mr Bedi.

The signing of the agreement was the first recognition of a workers' union by the EPZ. Mr Owuor urged the other companies in the EPZ to recognise the union. "This is the only way in which we can stabilise industrial relations and consolidate peace," said Mr Owuor.

But he told non-governmental organisations to keep off the EPZ, accusing them of having disrupted operations at the beginning of the year.