Apparel and Textiles Often Face Higher Tariffs

WTO study says pressure comes from domestic industry groups.

GENEVA — Textiles and apparel products are targeted in many countries with heavy import duties, often several times higher than the national average tariffs for most manufactured products, a World Trade Organization report said.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The higher tariffs reflect the pressure on policy makers from domestic industry groups to shield their sectors from foreign competition.

In China, the world’s biggest exporter of textiles and apparel, U.S. and other foreign suppliers of apparel in 2007 faced average import tariffs of 16 percent, compared with the 9 percent average for industrial goods, and some apparel suppliers faced a maximum duty of 25 percent, the report said. Foreign textile exporters to China on average paid a duty of 9.7 percent and a maximum of 38 percent.

The WTO’s “World Tariff Profiles, 2008” report also revealed that, in the U.S., the world’s most lucrative export market, foreign apparel suppliers had to pay duties of 11.7 percent on average, versus a 3.2 percent tariff for most manufactures. They also faced a maximum tariff of 32 percent for some sensitive lines.

Foreign textile suppliers to the U.S. last year had to pay an average duty of 7.9 percent and a maximum tariff of 34 percent for some categories.

Above-the-norm high duties were also imposed by India, Pakistan, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Japan and the European Union. In India, duties on apparel averaged 22.2 percent, compared with 11.5 percent levied on most industrial goods. Foreign apparel suppliers also faced a duty of 150 percent for some apparel products. In textiles, Indian apparel duties averaged 20.9 percent, almost twice the rate of other industrial goods.

In Brazil, duties for apparel and textiles averaged 20 and 16.8 percent, respectively, substantially above the average of 12.5 percent collected by customs officials for most other manufactures.

In the 27-member EU, tariffs of 11.5 percent for apparel and 6.6 percent for textile imports compared with the 3.8 percent paid by importers of most industrial goods.

Differences between rich industrialized countries and about 30 major emerging countries over how much to reduce industrial tariffs to enhance global trade flows has been a major issue in the stalled Doha Round of trade talks, launched in November 2001, which collapsed for the fourth time in July.