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Malaysian garment firms looking forward to FTA with US

Business Times, Malaysia

Malaysian garment firms looking forward to FTA with US

30 June 2006

Malaysia’s textile and garment industry is looking forward to a US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to help boost exports.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (northern region) chairman, Datuk O.K. Lee, said the import duty for textile and garment items to the US currently is between 17 per cent and 31 per cent.

"If Thailand inks an FTA with the US before we do, our textile and garment customers may go to Thailand and leave us at a disadvantage," said Lee, who is also the adviser to the Toray Group.

The US-Malaysia FTA will place us on a better footing as a manufacturer of high-end garment brands, he added.

The Eastern Garment Manufacturing Co Sdn Bhd general manager Loo Lee Lian believes the FTA has the potential to attract not only reinvestment from the existing textile companies operating here, but also to spur fresh investment in the garment industry.

"An FTA with the US will infuse new breath to the industry, and Esquel will certainly be re-strategising our operations here if this happens," she added.

The Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, one of the world’s largest producers of cotton shirts, owns The Eastern Garment Manufacturing.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Textile Manufacturers’ Association (MTMA) president Datuk Y.H. Tan said the country needs more local fashion designers who can design for foreign buyers such as Marks & Spencer and JC Penny.

"We are also not close to the fashion markets of the world like London, Paris and New York, and do not have the capability to create our own fashion trends to be emulated by the other markets.

"You must be a big and famous name in the fashion industry to be able to dictate trends and colours involved, or it can be a highly risky business," he said.