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Give and Take � G8 Talks Poverty Reduction While WTO Trade Policies Increase Poverty through Job Destruction

Posted to the IUF website 16-Jun-2005

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G8 nations have been accused of being myopic in talking poverty reduction in Africa while pursuing trade policies at the World Trade Organisation which are destroying African jobs thus creating poverty. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the continent�s textile and clothing industries since trade liberalisation on December 31 last with the ending of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement propelled China to the forefront of the sector choking off african export opportunities especially in the US market.

Speaking in Dakar, Senegal, Neil Kearney, general secretary of the global union in the sector, the Brussels-based International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers� Federation , said world leaders were decrying poverty in Africa in the lead up to the G8 summit in the UK next month while at the very same time contributing to that poverty by letting WTO trade policies wipe out the textile and clothing industries across the continent.

Said Mr. Kearney, �There is too much hyprocrisy being spouted in advance of the G8 summit. Yes, poverty elimination in Africa is vital, debt write-off is urgent and greatly increased and better targetted aid is essential but, equally important is the retention and growth of industrial employment throughout Africa. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening.

�The ending of the MFA less than six months ago has thrown the African textile and garment industry, one of the main sources of industrial employment, into crisis with hundreds of factories being forced to close across the continent and with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

�Every country in the continent with textile and clothing employment has suffered. Lesotho which relies on the garment industry for some 99% of its manufactured goods export earnings has seen eleven factories close with the loss of 13,000 Jobs. Another 20,000 jobs are under threat. No alternative employment exists for these workers. Kenya has lost twelve factories and 14,000 jobs ; Mauritius, six factories and 15,000 jobs lost ; South Africa, eleven factories and 4,000 jobs. Malawi has lost 2,500 jobs and Namibia, 2000. Tanzania has seen two textile mills close. Tunisia expects to lose up to 40% of its industry or nearly 100,000 jobs. Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria and Swaziland have all lost or expect to lose a significant part of their textile and clothing industries. And many more jobs are likely to go in the coming months as African exports are undercut by goods produced in China which are not only flooding the European and US markets but which are also strangling domestic markets across Africa.

�There is no logic to the destruction of the textile and garment industries in Africa. The continent has ample supplies of good quality cotton. Instead of being forced to export raw cotton, African nations should be encouraged and assisted to ensure that this is spun into yarn locally, woven into fabric and then transformed into garments � all in the continent and for sale domestically and in export markets.

�Employment generation in labour intensive industries such as textiles and clothing is a much more secure route to development than reliance on aid programmes. Unfortunately, this all appears to be on the blind side of the G8 nations which seem oblivious to the damage being done to employment and development in Africa by WTO inspired trade policies which currently discriminate against the world�s poorest nations in favour of China and other giants of textiles and clothing production.

�In the weeks and months ahead, African governments must combine their efforts to secure the renewal of their domestic textile and garment industries by demanding that the international financial institutions and donor agencies provide resources for industrial restructuring and training and that the WTO introduce measures to provide a breathing space for the industries to adjust to the challenges posed by the dominent exporters such as China. Such measures might include restraints on the dominent suppliers through limitations on access to the US and European markets and total exclusion from vulnerable economies in Africa.

�African nations have been hard hit by the ending of the MFA. African governments need to send a clear message to the G8 summiteers next month and deliver the same message to the WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December that, � Enough is enough ! Poverty reduction does not come from destroying industries and the employment they generate. Aid without jobs does not fuel development. Debt relief, on its own, has limited value to a nation without an industrial base. Change trade policies now and save on aid in the longer term. Promote jobs growth and decent work now in sectors like textiles and clothing and see how quickly poverty will reduce. ��.