The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins its affiliate SACTWU in welcoming the announcement that quotas on clothing and textile imports from China were gazetted by the Government on 1 September 2006 .
We particularly welcome the SACTWU general secretary's prediction that, if properly implemented, the agreement on quotas could help to create more than 55 000 new jobs in the local clothing and textile industry.
In just four years, this industry has lost around 67 000 jobs, largely because of a surge in Chinese imports. Since 2002, clothing imports from that country have risen by 480%. As a result, at the end of 2005 our trade balance with China was a deficit of R23 billion.
Retailers - the five biggest of which have made R18.1 billion in pre-tax profits over those four years – are reportedly complaining that these quotas will raise prices for the consumer. But that will only happen if they try to maintain the excessive levels of profits that they have enjoyed through importing very cheap Chinese goods and then selling them with a big mark-up.
We agree with SACTWU that the retailers should now work with the local clothing industry to put job creation and the national interest before their profits.
These quotas should make us all better off. Jobs will be saved and created. An industry that faced collapse can be revived. Meanwhile consumers will be able to buy Proudly South African goods of excellent quality and good value. The trade balance with China will move from deficit towards surplus and the whole economy will benefit from have a strong and expanding clothing and textile sector.
COSATU is pleased that one of the demands of its Jobs and Poverty Campaign has been met. We look forward to more such action from government to save and create jobs in every other sector of the economy, so that we can begin to move towards achieving the target set by the Growth and Development Summit of halving unemployment by 2014.