The 110 000 strong COSATU affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) welcomes government's announcement that it will proceed to implement a quota on imports of 31 clothing and textile products from China, and gives our cautious support to the announcement by the Department of Trade & Industry that the implementation of quota restrictions on clothing and textile imports from China will be delayed until 1 January 2007.
This support is on the basis that it will encourage greater support by retailers for the new quota system and for government's call that they source from local manufacturers.
At a meeting convened by the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday, stakeholders received a report from the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) and the SA Revenue Service (SARS) that indicated that the quota system was fully capable of being implemented by 28 September 2006, the original date of implementation.
Some concerns had been raised during the seven-day public comment period. While we believe that much of the concerns were fully capable of being addressed within the available timeframe, SACTWU supported a delay in the implementation date as a means of building more consensus on the operation and implementation of the quota system.
The announcement is an important gesture of goodwill from government in order to accommodate concerns raised by some stakeholders during the 7-day public comment period following the announcement of the quota agreement.
The announcement affords local retailers, local manufacturers and SACTWU a further opportunity to work together to ensure that local companies take up the full value of the orders that retailers will no longer be able to bring in from China. SACTWU has done a survey on local capacity through talking to firms at factory-level and it is clear that there is substantial idle capacity that can be brought to full production immediately.
We call on industry stakeholders to respect the spirit of the decision by government and not to use the extended notice period to increase offshore orders, which will undermine the quota arrangement.
Over the last four years, 67 000 jobs have been lost in the local fashion manufacturing industry. The quota arrangement can ensure that a considerable number of these jobs return to South Africa.
Governments' introduction of the quota as a means of boosting demand for locally produced goods require that industry rise to the challenge of modernising the local industry. We will work in partnership with retailers and manufacturers to help ensure that local factories gear up for the expanded production that will now be required.