NEW YORK — The issue of safeguard quotas loomed over exhibitors and buyers at the sixth annual China Textile & Apparel trade show here.

The event ended its three-day run last Thursday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where exhibitors discussed new ways to increase business as Europe and the U.S. limit the volume of imports from China.

“It’s really unfair for the U.S. to hurt our business,” said Alan Shie, sales representative at Santex International, a textile firm based in Shanghai. “This is a problem for us and it will dramatically decrease our overall income.”

The European Union and China agreed this month to limit China’s textile and apparel shipments to annual increases of 8 to 10 percent during the next three years. The U.S. imposed quotas on a range of goods that will limit each category’s volume to a 7.5 percent increase this year. World Trade Organization countries dropped quotas this year, but China’s membership in the trade group allowed safeguard quotas to be imposed if a country deemed its industries were being threatened by Chinese imports.

The antidote to restrictions will be to cultivate customers from Canada, which has chosen not to limit Chinese imports, Shie said.

“There are so many more Canadian customers shopping the show this year,” he said.

Frank Goo, a sales representative at Nantong Jiaye Garment Co., also based in Shanghai, said he attended the show for the first time this year to develop better relations with customers, which include major mass chains such as Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart. His focus was to pick up more Canadian customers.

“It’s so much easier for us to import into Canada these days,” Goo said, “and there are so many Canadian people here, which is good for us.”

He said the company would open an office in New York’s Garment District next year.

“We are hoping that will make it easier for us to import into the U.S., but we don’t know for sure what will happen in the end,” he said. “It’s a big worry because we do so much business in the United States.”

This story first appeared in the June 21, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Vendors shopping the show for new fabrics and manufacturers in China were also concerned.

“We are just going to have to move more of our production to other countries,” said Johnny Kirpalani, president of junior sportswear brand Plugg. “It’s the only thing we can do and it’s the only thing everyone is going to have to do.”

Kirpalani said he would source in China to produce jackets, but the bottoms business would have to be moved, which is likely to increase costs.

“It’s not an ideal situation, that’s for sure,” he said. “But hopefully, things will change.”

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