Johannesburg — The government should enact trade and industrial policies that create level playing field between South African clothing manufacturers and their rivals in mainland China, says Apparel Manufacturers of SA executive director Johann Baard.
He was addressing a workshop for stakeholders hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last week.
“SA needs its clothing industry. It is uniquely positioned to contribute to job creation and poverty alleviation and, as such, our trade and industrial policies should level the playing field between domestic manufacturers and their competitors in locations such as China.”
He said customs fraud needed to be brought under control urgently in order for the sector to attain competitiveness at an international level.
China’s currency policy has been the subject of fierce debate over the years, particularly in the US and Europe.
The Chinese central bank has been accused of keeping the yuan artificially low to promote an export boom.
An artificially lower currency makes the country’s goods and services more competitive, leaving other exporters and domestic producers at a disadvantage.
Mr Baard said the international community should put pressure on China to change its currency policies.
“We are not asking for subsidies or protection. “However, the government should do something about the scourge of unfair trade practices as they threaten the very survival of the South African clothing industry,” he said.
South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) general secretary Andre Kriel said the government had introduced several measures to assist the industry over the past year.
“It is the responsibility of business and labour to take advantage of this by introducing more of their own programmes to secure jobs and grow the industry.”
The workshop also discussed the industry’s contribution to national interest goals, such as reversing the de-industrialisation of the domestic economy and creating decent jobs.
Attendees rallied around the common goal of ensuring growth, protecting employment and devising models against which greater value chain alignment could be secured.
Stakeholders in attendance included Sactwu, the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Western Cape provincial government and the Industrial Development Corporation.