TURKEY GETS READY FOR BIG PUSH ON SHIPMENTS OF APPAREL TO U.S.
Byline: Jim Ostroff
WASHINGTON--Turkey's apparel producers, with a boost from their government and the European Customs Union, soon expect to step up their apparel exports to the U.S., according to Nur Ger, president of the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers' Association. "Currently, our share of the U.S. imported apparel market is less than 1 percent, and that's not where it should be," said Ger in an interview during the recent International Apparel Federation annual meeting here. "In the next few years our goal is to increase sales [in the U.S.] by 15 to 20 percent." She would not be more specific as to the time frame. Ger's observations were underscored by the heavy turnout of Turkish attendees at the IAF--more than 50 out of a total registration of 280, including spouses and children. Also, the IAF next year will meet in Istanbul. Turkey's relatively small share of the U.S. imported apparel market, Ger said, is attributable to the Multi-Fiber Arrangement, which limited its exports, and its own apparel manufacturers' inability to produce more. But Ger said a new government irrigation project will enable its farmers to double Turkey's cotton production to 1.2 million tons within a few years. In addition, she noted the Uruguay Round's phaseout of the MFA by Jan. 1, 2005, along with provisions that will double interim quotas, will enable it to increase apparel exports to the U.S. Ger said other factors as well will aid its apparel makers' drive to export more: Turkey's recent move to devalue its currency by 70 percent makes all of its exports more affordable on world markets. Its textile-apparel complex is undergoing world-class modernization, vastly increasing its apparel, fiber and fabric production. Forty-six percent of Turkey's current population of nearly 59 million is under age 20 and another 18 percent is age 20 to 29, providing a strong supply of workers for its textile and apparel producers. Its population is projected to reach 67.5 million by 2000 and 80 million 10 years later. Turkey's apparel and textile manufacturing infrastructure will be supported while it builds U.S. market share by sales to European countries, bolstered by Turkey's membership in the new European Customs Union. Within the Union, goods move quota- and duty-free. Specifically, Ger said Turkey's apparel makers are seeking to substantially increase their exports to the U.S. of men's and women's knitted cotton shirts and blouses, category 338/339, cotton bathrobes, category 350, "and sportswear in general." Ger conceded Turkey's apparel firms may have unanticipated difficulties expanding their sales in the U.S., noting in a paper she presented during the IAF meeting that while the U.S. has committed itself to apparel trade liberalization, in March the Clinton administration called Turkey to negotiations to set quota on its underwear exports. She noted that Turkey's "exports of $11 million constitute only 1.4 percent of total U.S. underwear imports," adding the call is "surprising and unfair." Consultations between the U.S. and Turkey on underwear were held here last week with no agreement reached. On Friday, as reported, the U.S. unilaterally imposed quotas. Ger, though, hastened to add in an interview that she believes such disputes can be overcome, predicting there will be a substantial increase in partnerships between Turkish and foreign firms to make apparel for export to the U.S. and other nations. Within the past six years, several foreign firms have set up 170 facilities combined in Turkey. "We expect there will be many more partnerships set up in Turkey and are not concerned about quotas, because eventually we feel there will be a true mutual opening of world markets," Ger added.
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