Retailers want import quotas to be scrapped

Posted On Thursday, 07 September 2006 02:00 Published by
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SA’s six largest clothing retailers yesterday urged government to scrap its plan to restrict clothing and textile imports from China on the grounds that the move would create chaos and hurt the consumers.

Wendy Hall

Consumer Industries Reporter

SA’s six largest clothing retailers yesterday urged government to scrap its plan to restrict clothing and textile imports from China on the grounds that the move would create chaos and hurt the consumers.

Edcon, Truworths, Woolworths, Foschini, Pepkor and Mr Price said the proposed quotas would have an expected inflationary effect of 20%-25% or more on prices of some categories of clothing.

They called on the authorities to appoint an independent task force to study the effects quotas would have on the economy before the regulations were implemented.

However, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the National Council of Trade Unions and the Federation of Unions of South Africa issued a joint statement in which they criticised the retailer group’s response to the proposed quotas.

The unions expressed disappointment that the retail sector, which had “led the drive towards a massive rise in imports in the sector”, was “unwilling to become partners in creating jobs for the unemployed in the country”.

Earlier in the week the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) said that it welcomed the proposed quotas. Sactwu general secretary Ebrahim Patel said the agreement between SA and China would give the local clothing and textile manufacturing industry the opportunity to rebuild itself and recover some of the 67000 jobs lost in the past four years largely as a result of imports from China.

Patel said local retailers had been completely preoccupied with their short-term survival, and could not focus on long-term development benefits.

“This agreement will now give business and labour a unique opportunity to plan ahead,” he said.

The retailers, however, warned that the measures could lead to even more serious problems for some clothing manufacturers as unavailability of certain fabrics could threaten their viability.

The CEO of the clothing, textile, footwear and leather sectoral education and training authority, Hoosen Rasool, said the claim by retailers — that the local manufacturing industry did not have the capacity or the skills to compete on a global scale — was unfounded.

Rasool said that over the past six years the organisation had spent R169m on workplace skills training, including technical training, productivity improvements and machine maintenance.

Woolworths CEO Simon Susman said earlier this week that while his group sourced as much of its clothing as possible from SA, the prices and technology of South African-produced goods were not commensurate with those of the rest of the world.


Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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