by TWN

Seattle, 3 Dec 99 (TWN) -- Ministers from countries which are members of the International Textiles and Clothing Bureau (ITCB) have expressed "continued disappointment and concern about the manner in which the major developed countries have been implementing the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)."

At the Singapore Ministerial Conference in December 1996, Ministers attached "importance to the implementation of this Agreement so as to ensure an effective transition to GATT 1994 by way of integration which is progressive in character".

Moreover, the Ministerial Declaration in Geneva in May 1998 affirmed that full and faithful implementation of the WTO Agreement and Ministerial Decisions was imperative for the credibility of the multilateral trading system and recognized the need for the system to make its own contribution in response to the particular trade interests and development needs of developing-country Members.

"We regret that the implementation of the ATC and, therefore, liberalization of long-running restrictions by major developed importing countries on imports of textiles and clothing from developing countries has failed to be progressive in character," the Ministers said in a statement to the Third WTO Ministerial conference.

After five years of implementation, very few quotas have been removed.

Of the total quantity of imports under specific restrictions, only 5-6% has been freed of restrictions over 70% of the 10-year transition period.

Additional quota access has not resulted in any lessening in the restrictive nature of quotas. Developing countries, including small suppliers and least-developed countries, have not received meaningful increases in their access possibilities.

On the other hand, the ITCB Ministers pointed out, major developed importing countries have resorted to a number of restrictive measures in addition to quotas, including safeguard actions for new restrictions which were subsequently found unjustified; trade-disruptive changes in rules of origin; undue tightening of customs and administrative procedures and anti-dumping actions targeting products that were already under quota restrictions.

"It is clear that promised liberalization in the sector has not materialized," the statement noted. "Developing countries have not been allowed to benefit from strong consumer demand in major developed importing countries. And additional reciprocal and sectoral access from developing countries has been demanded as a condition for meaningful implementation of commitments already made."

This is a disappointing reality, the Ministers said, "particularly when we recall that the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, including the ATC, was widely seen as the dawn of a new era. Economists, world over, were quick to point out that implementation of the Uruguay Round would expand trade, and boost world income by as much as $500 billion per annum. Fully one third of this was attributed to liberalization promised in textiles and clothing under the ATC. Even today, some recent studies predict that trade opportunities for developing countries from liberalization in textiles and clothing could be even higher."

Against this background, major developed importing countries should substantially open their markets to imports of textiles and clothing which is one of the few sectors in which developing countries enjoy comparative advantage, the ITCB said. "For so long as they do not do so, the expectations created by the Uruguay Round will remain unfulfilled."

The Ministers urged the major developed importing countries to avoid applying new restrictive measures and to take immediate steps to improve their implementation of the ATC without further concessions from developing countries, so that their economies can secure commercially meaningful market access for their textiles and clothing exports. (SUNS4566)

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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