Blog: Leonie BarrieNew survey challenges protectionist myth

Leonie Barrie | 17 April 2009

A raft of stimulus packages introduced to deal with the global economic crisis would seem to support mounting claims that protectionism has become rampant in the worldwide clothing and textile industry.

But not according to a new survey carried out by UK-based consultancy Clothesource, details of which are covered exclusively on just-style today (17 April).

Its Guide to Apparel Trade Rules studied rule and policy changes made since October 2008 by the 20 leading clothes importing countries and the 30 leading garment exporters.

And the results show that contrary to widespread belief, the world's leading textile and garment importers have abolished more barriers to trade in the past six months than ever before.

Only Turkey and India have put their energy into increasing import barriers, it says, whereas the US, the EU, Canada and Japan have actually made it easier for some importers to trade with them.

Even low-income garment-exporting countries like Mexico, Malaysia and Colombia have generally lowered barriers to trade.

And it seems the US Treasury department agrees. Earlier this week it refrained from accusing China of illegally manipulating its currency – much to the annoyance of textile trade groups who argue an artificially weak yuan disadvantages US manufacturers.

In its Semi-Annual Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies, the Treasury said "China has taken steps to enhance exchange rate flexibility," although it conceded that the yuan is "undervalued."

An accusation would perhaps have led to more hassle than the US government needs right now. Not only the involvement of the International Monetary Fund but also intense negotiations with Beijing – at a time when the US would rather see China keep buying its debt.



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