7 Feb 2006

Fiji's garment industry makes renewed calls for better access to the Australian market

4:41 pm on 7 February 2006

There are renewed calls for the Fiji government to negotiate a better deal with Australia for the garment industry.

The president of the Fiji Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council, Ramesh Solanki, says this is needed because the industry is already in a decline and will deteriorate further if Australia and China sign a free trade agreement, as planned.

Mr Solanki says they want to see rules of origin relaxed from 50 to 25 percent in order to become more competitive.

Under the SPARTECA trade agreement, the Fiji clothing industry must use 50 percent locally-manufactured fabric but Mr Solanki says this hampers their efficiency.

He says there are now only 9,000 jobs in an industry which at its peak, provided 19,000.

"If government intervenes and negotiates better entry under SPARTECA for Australia and New Zealand, then I think we stand a very good chance of re-employing some of the laid off workers. Could be 6,000 in the next six to twelve months."

Mr Solanki says the government is negotiating with Australian officials but he believes there needs to be more urgency.