December 16, 2004

Massive job losses feared

As many as 50.000 workers could lose their jobs after World Trade Organisation textile quotas are lifted on January 1, trade union leaders have warned. The Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union fears cheap Chinese-made clothing will flood the United States - Lesotho's main market - and African manufacturers won't be able to compete. "This will adversely affect our exports to the United States, and millions of workers in almost every textile and clothing producing nation may lose their jobs," said Daniel Maraisane, the union's secretary-general.
Trade unions representing textile workers from across the continent have requested an urgent meeting with Supachai Panitchpakdi, director general of the World Trade Organisation, to discuss the potential job losses. US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick sought to play down the concerns on a visit earlier that week. He pointed out that Lesotho enjoys a competitive edge under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which gives its textiles duty-free access to the United States. Lesotho is now sub-Saharan Africa's largest exporter of textiles to the United States, producing 31 per cent of the textiles exported from there to America under the act last year. (Los Angeles Times)

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