The 1994 Uruguay round world trade agreement gave rich countries 10 years to phase out all textile quotas, as part of a finely balanced deal that required all WTO members to make concessions in different areas. The US, EU and Canada have already formally notified the WTO of their plans to eliminate all remaining import quotas by the end of 2004..
“It a deal that already been done. It cannot be undone,” said Cheidu Osakwe, director of the WTO textile division, in a speech to trade policy specialists in Washington. .
Mr. Osakwe said he did not think any government would push for an extension, which would risk unraveling the 1994 accord.
As the deadline approaches, textile industries in both rich and poor countries have become increasingly fearful about the impact of Chinese and Indian competition. .
A US industry study last year predicted that China could seize up to three-quarters of the US market, with the closure of more than 1,300 US textile plants and related job losses estimated at 650,000. .
World Bank analysts have estimated that roughly $200bn in clothing trade will shift to China over the next few years, the main losers being non-Asian developing countries.
Last month textile industry associations in the US, Turkey, Mexico and a dozen sub-Saharan African countries backed the so-called “Istanbul declaration” calling for a three-year extension of the quotas to 2008. African nations said the quotas should stay in place until 2010 pending elimination of unfair trade practices by China and others. .
Some smaller non-Asian producers will continue to benefit from preferential trade arrangements such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the African Growth and Opportunity Act in the US and the European Union “Everything but arms” arrangement that gives duty-free access to least-developed countries.