TOKYO — Textile industry leaders from Japan, Europe, the U.S. and China said they would push their governments to complete a free trade agreement by 2011.
The two-day session here marked the first time that China joined the three other markets in an industry-level trade conference.
Acknowledging the formidable challenge of reaching a trade pact in four years, Japan Textile Federation vice president Masaki Sakurai said, “It is important to initiate action and take the first step forward,” adding, “nothing moves” if the issue is left to politicians.
Others taking part in the conference were: Filiep Libeert, honorary president of European Apparel & Textile Organization; William Lakin, director general of Euratex; Cass Johnson, president of the U.S.-based National Council of Textile Organizations, and a six-member delegation from China headed by Du Yuzhou, president of the China National Textile & Apparel Council. The Japanese federation was represented by Sakurai, Shinya Okuda, vice president and secretary general, and Akio Mera, chairman of Japan Textile Export Organization.
Libeert said some individuals might think the idea of achieving free trade among Japan, Europe, America and China is “naïve and idealistic,” but added that the plan can succeed if there is “vision and leadership.”
Sakurai said there was heated debate on ways to maintain fairness in world textile and apparel trade. The important thing, he emphasized, was that the meeting provided a platform for all parties to deepen their mutual understanding.
The conference, known as the Textile & Apparel Quad Meeting, will hold its next session in Beijing in March 2008, move to Brussels in 2009 and to the U.S. in 2010, with a fifth meeting to take place in Beijing.
According to a summary report, Japan argued that China, as the world’s most powerful textile and apparel producer, has the responsibility to maintain order in world textile trade. The summary emphasized the importance of protecting intellectual property.
China called for elimination of what it characterized as discriminatory treatment toward that nation, stressing it will maintain a market economy, promote trade liberalization and enhance a shift from volume to quality. China also said it wants to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights.
Europeans noted there were 160,000 job losses in the European Union in 2005, although the market improved slightly last year. They said the EU will compete in the apparel and textile sector on the strength of technology and fashion, not on cost.
The U.S. said the greatest concern is maintaining sound infrastructure for the textile industry in North America, which includes countries involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Caribbean initiatives.
China’s exports of textile goods to all sources in 2005 increased 20.7 percent from the previous year to $117.54 billion. Shipments to EU countries jumped 55.3 percent to $18.86 billion. Exports to the U.S. soared 66.1 percent to $19.58 billion and shipments to Japan went up 5.5 percent to $18.13 billion.