Giving clothing new wings

A New World Map in Textiles and Clothing: Adjusting to Change
OECD Observer

In 2002, the textiles and clothing industry accounted for US$350 billion or 5.6% of total merchandise exports. The industry employs tens of millions of people, primarily in developing countries. But dramatic changes are afoot, with new regulations set to come into force in January 2005.

Textiles is one of the hardest-fought issues in the World Trade Organization. The elimination of quantitative import restrictions under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing will put an end to a complex trade regime built up over decades, and will have huge implications for those involved in the entire supply chain. Countries will no longer be able to protect their own industries by means of restrictive quotas on imports of textile and clothing products. What will this mean for cotton growers in Burkina Faso or Turkey, fashion retailers in France or the United States, and shirt factories in Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic or China? Who stands to lose and who will gain? Where will jobs be at risk and new markets found? And how can governments help their own textile and clothing industries adjust to new market realities?

A New World Map in Textiles and Clothing argues that while large players like China stand to gain from the new situation, winners over time will be those – whether large or small – who master the logistics of the marketplace. They will manage costs, of course, but as crucially, will fill quality orders to short deadlines. The report also suggests a policy framework to help deal effectively with such changes, as well as to capitalise on the trade opportunities that are being created through improved market access.

©OECD Observer No 245, November 2004

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