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19.10.2005 Business & Finance

Unionists demand comprehensive trade policy on textiles

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Accra, Oct. 19, GNA - African trade unionists of the textiles and clothing industries have issued a resolution in which they said they intended to urge governments to adopt a comprehensive industrial and trade policy approach to cope with the impact of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) on the continent.

The resolution is the outcome of the union's conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, and takes into account the over 250,000 jobs lost as a result of trade liberalisation.

The rippling effects in the different countries have been the deprivation of more than a million African families of their livelihood. The statement signed by Mr F. Kofi Davoh, General Secretary of the UNICOF, said although the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) had led to growth of industries producing for export in several countries, the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), which had restricted exports of textiles from Asia, had contributed to losses.

They noted that cheap textiles and clothing imports from China had flooded the domestic markets, which had seriously injured the industries, resulted in loss of productive capacity, factory closures and retrenchments.

The resolution therefore asked governments to make better use of available inputs through strong beneficiary programmes and develop a strategy for restructuring of the industries.

This should be done through the integration of a regional value chain in textiles and clothing by the use of different strengths of the different countries.

It also urged the African Union (AU) to coordinate amongst itself to attract foreign investment in order to avoid destructive competition for investment among African countries.

The statement called on the AU to develop guidelines on maximising the benefits of such investments through measures such as technology transfer agreements and training in high level skills and to ensure that domestic investors were not discriminated against.

The statement noted that a strong dependence of the textiles and clothing industries had been created through the African Growth and Opportunities Act on the US market and on preferential treatment as well as other opportunities in European markets.

It, however, said that globally retailers' procurement very often contributed to the erosion of labour rights as they sourced from countries and companies with very poor labour rights.

"Buyers have substantial power to impact positively on the labour rights violations of workers in foreign companies."

The statement said the Unionists resolved to lobby governments to support a policy coherence initiative among multilateral institutions with a strong ILO involvement to create and expand decent work opportunities in the clothing and textile industries on the continent. The statement said the resolution was passed with the belief that "the African clothing and textile industry can grow in output and employment provided policies are developed to modernise the industry, strengthen the skills of the workforce, develop capacities in product quality and innovation".

Participants to the conference included representatives from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland.