EC decision to block Chinese clothing is bad for development, says Oxfam

Published: 1 November 2005

Brussels, Belgium: The European Commission’s announcement today of plans to stymie the apparent increase of Chinese clothing into the EU market threatens China’s progress in poverty reduction, Oxfam International said. The increase in China’s sales follows the abolition on 1st January 2005 of the European quota system for textiles and clothing imports.

“European industry had more than a decade to prepare for the end of quotas. They decided not to. China should not be penalized because Europe maintained most of the quotas until the last minute instead of having a managed phase-out,” said Phil Bloomer Head of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair Campaign.

The Chinese economy has grown fast over the last 20 years but average income is still only one twenty-fifth that of France and there are over 100 million people living in absolute poverty.

Two weeks ago, domestic protectionist lobbies prevented the EU from reducing tariffs imposed on textiles and clothing from India, which is much poorer even than China.

“Europe had ten years to prepare for this change in trade rules, and chose to sit on its hands. Oxfam repeatedly warned against this tactic. China and India’s development should not be blocked by Italy and France because Europe has been negligent.” said Bloomer. “This trade is vital to millions of poor people.” he added.

Because of European negligence will bring an unnecessary shock to European industry, generous funds should be made available to assist European workers in the adjustment.

Some European countries claim that putting the brakes on China’s exports will help smaller developing-country exporters, but these same European countries have been refusing to improve market access for Sri Lanka, which was badly hit by the Asian tsunami, and for the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Bangladesh and Cambodia, for example pay duties on over half their exports to the EU, despite the promises of the “Everything But Arms” initiative.

Oxfam, along with trade unions, is concerned that working conditions can be poor in Chinese factories. “But this is no justification for blocking Chinese clothing exports, which would hurt poor workers, particularly the millions of women employed in this sector”, said Bloomer.

“The EU says it is committed to ensuring that the current WTO trade negotiations benefit development but any increase now in European protectionism against China and other poor countries’ exports will give the lie to this claim, and risk paralyzing the talks,” concluded Bloomer.

Contact Information

For more information contact:
Louis Belanger, Oxfam Media Officer, Brussels on 32 4 73 562 260
Michael Bailey, Oxfam Trade Advisor, Oxford on 44 1 865 312 494