Restrictions on imports of Chinese clothing imports into South Africa have done little to help the South African clothing sector to regain its competitiveness according to new research.
The two-year agreement to limit Chinese clothing imports on 31 product lines began on 1 January 2007 and will run until 31 December 2008.
Its aim is to slow surging clothing imports from China, as well as provide an opportunity for the South African clothing sector to regain competitiveness.

However, a report by the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (Tralac) suggests that while the value of imports from China has gone down by 40% in the selected quota lines in the six months to June 2007, countries like Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Vietnam and the UK have increased their exports to the country.

The results also suggest the local garment industry has failed to respond to the challenge, and that local retailers are simply switching to alternative sources, including other countries in the Far East.

There are also fears that Chinese manufacturers are targeting higher value-add product lines not restricted by quotas.

The researchers caution that the results may not show definitive patterns because they cover such a short timeframe, and that trade data between South Africa and Lesotho, a likely source of compensatory supply, is not readily available.