The Center for Global Studies' primary objective is to promote globally-oriented, multi-disciplinary research and training in the social sciences and humanities, including both basic and policy oriented research, by studying the transnational processes that are increasingly central to understanding the world as an integrated economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental system. Center activities include research initiatives in the area of women, culture, and development; transnational feminisms; globalization and race; global business; globalization and health; globalization and the environment; and globalization and international education.
Assessing the Impact of the Phasing-out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing on Apparel Exports on the Least Developed and Developing Countries
On January 1, 2005, the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA), which establishes quotas on different categories of apparel and textile imports to the US and the EU, will be fully phased out. The quota system, which has been in force for nearly thirty years, has resulted in the global dispersion of textile and apparel production, by restricting imports from countries that – based on market conditions – would have a larger volume of exports were they not constrained by their quota allocations. There is concern among many developing countries that the elimination of quotas will result in a loss of apparel and textile exports to a relative handful of countries that will have a competitive advantage. This research addresses these questions, in an effort to better understand the dynamics of global sourcing in the textile and apparel industries. It is based primarily on a review of existing research, both macro-level research that simulates world trade patterns, and case studies of individual countries. It also examines World Bank data on textile and apparel exports. The study shows that large retailers play an increasingly important role in determining the nature apparel production, including a preference for “lean retailing” that favors Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Korean, and Chinese suppliers. The changing nature of production is discussed, including the importance of well-established relationships between Asian suppliers and U.S. and EU buyers – relationships that enable the Asian suppliers to operate effectively across many different countries. The impact of MFA phase-out is discussed, with special emphasis on several sub-Sahara African countries, for which some information is available concerning the role of foreign suppliers. The paper concludes with a number of policies that might mitigate the anticipated effects of MFA phase-out.
For developing countries, the textiles and clothing industries have traditionally been an important gateway to industrialization and increased exports. With the expiration of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, the quota system originally set up through the Multifibre Arrangement was phased out. This has important implications for the allocation of export-oriented production and is likely to affect in various ways a large number of developing countries that rely heavily on such exports.
Drawing on a wide range of studies as well as on original research, this volume shows that transnational corporations (TNCs) are likely to play a critical role in determining the future global production structure in these industries. First, the sourcing strategies of a small number of very large retailing companies (based in the United States, Europe and Japan) place stringent requirements on the locations in which textiles and clothes will be produced. Second, the investment strategies of large transnational producers (mostly based in East Asia) will also affect the final outcome. Foreign affiliates of such developing-country TNCs already account for the bulk of exports from many developing economies. The growing role of TNC producers is still not well understood, and more research is needed on their strategies and the impact of their international investments. As TNCs become more important at the production stage, their bargaining power increases vis-à-vis retailers in developed economies.
With the removal of quotas, sourcing and investment decisions are affected more by economic fundamentals. But low labour costs alone will not be sufficient to attract investment. There is likely to be more consolidation of production into larger factories in a smaller number of locations. China and India are likely to be in a particularly strong position in this new geography of production, but various factors may also work against too much consolidation. Proximity to markets continues to play an important role for some product categories, and some producers have signalled that they will retain several production bases in order not to become too dependent on a single source country. Moreover, various trade policy measures also influence sourcing and investment decisions. Data on foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in textiles and clothing manufacturing show that China, Bulgaria, the United States, Hungary, Brazil and India attracted the largest number of such projects in 2002–2004.
The removal of quotas generally means intensified competition for FDI in textiles and clothing.To become or stay competitive as host locations, countries will need to develop their ability to move away from simple assembly to “full-package” production and eventually original brand manufacture. But replicating the success of East Asia will be difficult. Key policy areas in this regard include identification of specialized niches; skills training and technological upgrading; investment in information technology; improvement of infrastructure such as ports and export processing zones; and leveraging of existing tariff preferences in the global trading system. Moreover, investment promotion agencies may identify some of the major transnational producers as key addresses for future marketing activities.
The right to organize is the worker's most effective weapon against exploitative conditions. Yet the global “race to the bottom” has turned the weapon of unionizing – and the anti-sweatshop struggle overall – into a double-edged sword. If workers organize they are likely to lose their jobs, as corporations pursue factories where unions are forbidden and cheap labor is therefore guaranteed. But if workers do not organize, their rights will continue to be violated. These conditions pose a significant challenge for the anti-sweatshop movement – a challenge that will increase with the end of apparel quotas. This paper begins by reviewing the impact of the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) – two regulatory frameworks that have governed global trade in these commodities for 30 years. This regulatory framework came to an end on January 1, 2005 with the WTO-mandated end of textile and apparel import quotas. A large body of research on the probable result of the end of the quota system concludes that a small number of countries (and primarily China) are likely to be the chief beneficiaries of the end of quotas, while a large number of countries are likely to suffer significant declines in their apparel and textile export industries. The paper discusses two trends which are transforming the nature of global trade in textiles and apparel (indeed, in all consumer goods): The rise of giant retailers as the key actors in the global supply chain, and the rise of giant transnational contractors – based mainly in East Asia – that are emerging as its chief suppliers. The paper concludes with a discussion of what countries can do to mitigate the impact of the end of quotas on their textile and apparel industries, as well as some suggestions for the anti-sweatshop movement.