TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

South Africa: Hope Stirs Over Textile Sector Crisis

Wednesday, 09 February 2005

Source: Business Day (Johannesburg)

Last week's meeting between representatives of government, labour and clothing and textile industries has revived hopes of protecting the troubled industries from a surge of cheap imports from China and other east Asian countries.

Textile Federation of SA executive director Brian Brink said this week that talks were on track and that he was optimistic about their progress.

SouthAccording to the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), the industry has shed about 30 000 jobs in the last two years.

A task team consisting of representatives from the trade and industry department - which initiated the talks - Sactwu and the Textile Federation met in Cape Town last week to consider remedies aimed at countering the negative effects of cheap imports on the local clothing and textile sector.

Brink said on Monday that the parties had made progress in the negotiations, but that it was premature to say whether there would be policy changes.

"At the moment we are looking at remedies to the situation, not policy changes," he said.

Neither Brink, trade and industry department officials nor Sactwu would comment on what was discussed last week, saying only that the parties would meet again in about a month's time.

The task team met only three times last year, sparking criticism from the Democratic Alliance that the department was dragging its feet on the issue.

The resumption of the task team's discussions has not stopped the Textile Federation from applying to the trade and industry department for the adoption of safeguard measures.

Brink said the organisation was compiling the application. "We are putting a lot of work into it because it requires more information," he said.

In its accession agreement to the World Trade Organisation, China has agreed to a safeguard mechanism allowing member countries to restrain imports from China that disrupt their local markets.

Under the agreement, the Textile Federation of SA must apply to government to invoke the safeguards.

However, trade and industry department deputy director-general Lionel October said this week that safeguard measures were "no panacea".

October said that safeguard measures had been used in a bid to protect the local footwear industry, with little success.

Parliament's trade and industry committee has said it would hold public hearings on the problems.

Brink said that the federation was not aware of the planned hearings, but that it welcomed the initiative.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of South Africa’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.