Turkey presents case for poor textile-producing countries

GENEVA – Turkey yesterday urged the World Trade Organization (WTO) to heed a cry for help from poorer countries which fear for the future of their textile and clothing businesses once global export quotas go in January. Many developing nations, for whom textile and clothing is a major export earner, and employers say they will be unable to compete with producers in China and India. At closed-door talks on textiles at the Geneva-based body, Turkey, itself a major apparel producer, called for a mechanism «to protect the market shares of the developing countries.» Turkey, which fears it could lose sales in the European Union, did not spell out how such a mechanism would work in a statement issued ahead of the meeting. But it said it should be triggered automatically if and when a country’s market share came under threat. «Today, just a few months before the end (of quotas)…, the sustainability of textiles and clothing sectors are at stake in many developing and least-developed countries,» it said. But both China and India, which economists say will be the main beneficiaries of the end of a system that governed the garment trade for decades, reacted coolly to the idea. Diplomats quoted Beijing’s Ambassador Sun Zhenyu as saying that the Turkish proposal, with its implied restriction on Chinese sales, was «not an option» because it went against the principle of trade liberalization. Under the terms of the WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC), quotas disappear at midnight on December 31, winding up an anomaly in the world trading system and putting clothes and textiles on the same footing as other goods. But textiles and clothes will still be subject to import tariffs, and China also agreed at the time of its WTO entry in late 2001 that members could demand it restrict its sales growth in their domestic markets to 8 percent a year for the next few years. Nevertheless, developing-country exporters such as Guatemala, Mauritius and Morocco reiterated their demand at yesterday’s meeting that the WTO launch a study into the impact of removing quotas as a first step toward drawing up a plan to counter some of its effects. But that plan, too, first put forward earlier this month, has drawn criticism from China, which questions why the WTO should make a special case of textiles. Both the United States, whose domestic clothing industry looks set to suffer from the increased competition, and the European Union told the meeting that they would be prepared to discuss possible moves to help developing countries, but without committing themselves to any particular proposal. More talks are set for the middle of November.