The Canadian government has unveiled a number of new initiatives worth up to C$600 million within the next five years to help the country's beleaguered textile industry.

Finance minister Ralph Goodale said the aid package will provide the country's textile and clothing industries "with the tools needed to lower costs and invest in competitiveness through a focus on productivity improvements, new products and market opportunities."

Measures include the elimination of tariffs on fibre and yarn imports (worth up to $15 million per year) and on imports of textile inputs used by the apparel industry (worth up to $75 million per year), from 1 January 2005.

$50 million in additional funding will also be provided to the Textile Production Efficiency Component (CANtex) over the next five years to encourage Canadian textile companies to shift to higher value-added products and focus on niche markets.

Duty remission orders, which benefit some apparel and textile manufacturers, will also be extended for five years. The orders would be gradually phased out over the final three years of their existence.

The Canadian textile and apparel industry currently employs 144,000 people.

The new measures are designed to address the findings of the October 2004 Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, 'Duty Remission and the Zero-Rating of Tariffs on Textile Inputs: The Canadian Apparel Industry.'