7 Feb 2006

Fiji garment industry feels threatened by possible Australia-China deal

9:13 am on 7 February 2006

The Fiji Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council is warning that a free trade agreement negotiated between Australia and China will have a severe effect on Fiji's garment industry.

The Fiji Times quotes the Council president, Ramesh Solanki, as saying if Australia and China sign the free trade agreement, Fiji's already ailing garment industry would collapse in the coming years because of competition from China.

Mr Solanki says the Fiji textile sector has declined significantly in the last five years in terms of employment and export revenue.

He says the situation is a serious matter for Fiji because the industry has been providing employment to women of poor educational background.

Mr Solanki says any further job losses, which are already down from a peak 19,000 to about 9,000 now, will have serious social implications.

Garment exports declined from US$188 million five years ago to less than US$120 million last year.

Mr Solanki says the SPARTECA agreement under which Fiji exports garments to Australia has not been revised for 24 years and an urgent review is necessary in its rules of origin.