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Developing Nations Fear Non-Quota Barriers

GENEVA — As the final phaseout of quotas on textiles and apparel in 2005 ticks steadily closer, top officials from developing nations that rely heavily on exports of those products fear that wealthy nations may turn to aggressive antidumping...

GENEVA — As the final phaseout of quotas on textiles and apparel in 2005 ticks steadily closer, top officials from developing nations that rely heavily on exports of those products fear that wealthy nations may turn to aggressive antidumping measures to limit imports.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Munir Ahmed, executive director of the International Textiles & Clothing Bureau — a group of 24 exporting nations including China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia — said, “There are still apprehensions quotas might be replaced by equally restrictive instruments, like recourse to antidumping measures.”

He said that demands by poor exporters in the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks for rich countries to provide greater market access for textiles and clothing have been blocked so far, and called that “a great disappointment.”

The U.S. and EU have stressed they will honor the deals brokered in the Uruguay round of WTO talks, which ran from 1986 to 1994, but have complained that developing countries are trying to renegotiate the deal.

Top U.S. trade officials have said the WTO accord does allow some steps to stem surges of imports.

But developing-nation observers are concerned how wealthy nations will react when the restrictive-quota regime that has dominated global trade for decades is scrapped on Jan. 1, 2005.

ITCB chief Ahmed said his group also hopes to negotiate reductions in peak industrial tariffs, which will be a major trade-regulation tool left in place after the quotas among WTO nations are dropped.

Reducing peak tariffs from their current levels — around 15 percent in the U.S. and 12 percent in the EU — is a key priority for developing nations.

Meanwhile, Alberto Trejos, Costa Rica’s minister for external trade, recently said: “You can be sure we would react very strongly if rules changed against us [in textiles and clothing].”

The Costa Rican official said he believes rich countries will “feel committed to what they agreed.”

In 2001, world clothing exports totaled $195 billion, or 3.3 percent of total merchandise exports, and textiles were valued at $147 billion, or 2.5 percent share, according to WTO data.

For many poor countries, textiles and clothing account for a large chunk of export revenues.

Indeed, for Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations, clothing exports in 2001 totaled $5.1 billion and accounted for 78.3 percent of its total exports.

Similarly, for Cambodia, clothing accounted for 72.5 percent of total exports; for El Salvador, 60.2 percent; for the Dominican Republic, 50.9 percent; for Sri Lanka, 49.3 percent; for Mauritius, 56.6 percent and nearly 14 percent for China.