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China textile exports up, but impact limited
Updated: 2005-10-25 06:57

China's textile and clothing exports have grown by more than one fifth since the end of global quotas at the beginning of this year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said.

But although jobs were lost in some textile producing nations following the change, ILO experts said the free rein given to the world's biggest textile producers had not produced as big a shock as originally feared.

"That's not to say there haven't been certain consequences, such as in Africa," Sally Paxton, an executive director said at the beginning of a three-day meeting on the textiles trade at the ILO headquarters in Geneva.

Under a 1995 agreement between trading nations, a 40-year-old international trading regime for the textile and clothing industry came to an end on January 1, 2005. The Multi-fibre Arrangement effectively limited the amount industrial giants like China and India could export into major markets.

China's textile exports grew by 20.5 percent, its clothing exports rose by 22 percent during the first seven months of the year, according to official data compiled by the ILO. China now accounts for 28 percent of world clothing exports and 15.8 percent of textiles exports. It already headed global trade in the sector before the limit was lifted.

A surge in cheap Chinese textiles and clothing prompted the European Union to reach an agreement with Beijing this summer to resume limits on some Chinese imports as a temporary measure. The United States invoked protective measures allowed by the World Trade Organisation and sought a similar accord with China, but the two sides failed to reach an understanding earlier this month.

A report for the ILO meeting released earlier this month acknowledged that the liberalization of the textiles trade had created "uncertainty among producing countries, workers and enterprises worldwide".

"However the overall picture is more contrasted than expected," it added.

Data released Monday showed that many other established textile producers, including European countries, had also benefited by amounts that exceeded or equaled the overall 10.3 percent growth in exports in the sector.

Germany's clothing exports rose 16.5 percent while exports from Italy's grew by 10.3 percent in the first seven months of 2005. Clothing from Austria and the Czech Republic also performed strongly.

Clothing exports from France grew by 8 percent, but French textiles exports fell by 3.1 percent. Britain, the Netherlands and Greece also suffered a decline.

Smaller developing country producers appeared to have suffered the most. Clothing exports from South Korea (-20.7 percent) fell sharply. Textiles exports from Mexico (-1.1) also fell, but it traded more clothing.

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