Colombia's textile and clothing sector has welcomed an initiative unveiled by the country's President Juan Manuel Santos to help boost Colombian textile and apparel manufacturers through new tariffs and anti-smuggling measures.

These temporary duty increases include a new mixed tariff which includes a standard ad valorem charge, as well as a special tax in a fixed dollar rate on goods imported from foreign textile and clothing brands.

"The measures help to protect the domestic textile and clothing chains," said Andrés Arango, president of the Colombia industry association Asotextil (La Asociación Nacional de Distribuidores Textiles e Insumos Para la Confección). "It promotes the idea that apparel should be made in Colombia."

Commerce, industry and tourism minister Sergio Díaz-Granados added: "With these measures, we leverage this very important sector for the economy and job creation."

He was speaking following the President's announcement at the 'Weaving Colombia' event at the end of last month, organised by the Colombian Chamber of Apparel and held in Medellín.

There, Santos explained that a special force comprised of nine prosecutors would be created to investigate illegal trades within the textile and clothing sector, focusing on smuggling and customs fraud.

While Arango applauded the measures and the government's pledge to help the industry, he stressed that there was much work to be done. "It's not enough; it helps some, but there is much work to do in boosting the industry's competitiveness."

He said a major problem was poor technology and equipment in the Colombia fashion and textile industry, leaving it prey to global competitors.

"Remember it's temporary," added Arango, in reference to the tariff increases. "The sector has to concern itself with being more efficient, and also the government has to concern itself with modernising infrastructure."

Other elements of the Santos plan include streamlining certificate of origin and domestic production registration into one form, to help reduce red tape for Colombian manufacturers.

And to direct government export trade agency Proexport to inform the sector of how it can better exploit free trade agreements signed by the Colombian government such as those with the US and the European Union.