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FTA with China won’t cut into clothes market

The Australian, Canberra

FTA with China won’t cut into clothes market

By Katharine Murphy

25 May 2005

CHINA won’t get special access to our $9 billion textile market as part of a looming free trade agreement between Canberra and Beijing, senior trade negotiators have told Australia’s clothing industry.

The assurance was given to Andrew Edgar, chief executive of clothing manufacturer Yakka and president of the Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, during a meeting between the textile, clothing and footwear industry and the Australian FTA team.

"(The officials) indicated to us that the preservation of the industry plans had the support of government ministers," MrEdgar told The Australian yesterday.

Mr Edgar said he was told Australia would not agree to cut tariffs faster than the existing program, which will see tariffs cut to 5 per cent by 2015. The new assurance to manufacturers came as John Howard met China’s chairman of the National People’s Congress, Wu Bangguo, yesterday. Mr Wu has been in Australia to promote bilateral trade.

Australia’s hardline stance on textile protection could cause tensions in FTA negotiations. Chinese officials have already indicated they want to use the agreement to make gains in the Australian clothing market.

China is also under intense global pressure in the textile trade, and the US and Europe are threatening retaliatory action unless Beijing reins in its surging clothing exports.

But local manufacturers are concerned that if China’s product is turned away in key markets, it could be dumped at below market prices in Australia.