TRALAC – What has happened since customs duties on 124 clothing tariff lines were increased in 2009?

I really enjoy TRALAC’s Newsletter – their analysis is always concise and down-to-earth. This Hot Seat Comment is no exception. One often wonders about the impact and nett result of tariff changes and trade remedies. Here we get some insight.

The clothing and textile industry has a long history in South Africa and is still a very important source of employment, especially for women and in poorer communities. The industry is geographically bound to specific provinces, including the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Gauteng. In many rural areas the clothing and textile sector is often the only source of formal employment. Since about 2002 the Rand appreciated substantially and South African exports became less competitive in the global market. Coupled with the trade liberalisation, in terms of South Africa’s WTO offer, the clothing and textile industry has experienced sustained import competition due mostly from Asian imports. In order to try and remedy large-scale factory closures and employment losses in the industry the Southern Africa Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) applied for an increase in the import tariffs of 124 clothing tariff lines to the WTO bound rates of 45 percent in 2009. These clothing tariff lines are classified under Chapter 61 and 62 of the South African Tariff Book and include various clothing items, including men’s woven and knitted shirts, jackets and trousers; babies’ garments; and women’s woven and knitted jackets, skirts, dresses and trousers. Although the retailers objected to an increase in import duties the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) granted the application and general customs duties on 121 clothing tariff lines were increased from 40 percent to 45 percent, while the general customs duties on three tariff lines (hosiery) was increased from 20 percent to 45 percent.

imagesIn its application SACTWU stated three reasons for the application: there has been a significant increase in imports under these 124 tariff lines flowing into South Africa; market disruptions in the SACU industry which have resulted in factory closures and retrenchments warranted increased protection for the domestic industry; and increased tariffs will provide both relief and show increased confidence in the industry. The retail industry objected to the application on the following grounds: the loss of business in the manufacturing industry can not only be attributed to price competition, but also inefficiency in the local industry; increased duties will have an inflationary effect impacting the ability of consumers to buy clothing at competitive prices; and increased duties will have a punitive effect on the rail sector and the end consumers. In its decision the Commission found the declining rate of investment and employment in the clothing sector coupled with increased imports a disturbing trend. The Commission decided that an increase in customs duties will enable manufacturers to protect existing jobs, increase market penetration and price competition and growth the domestic manufacturing sector in the export market. However, the question of whether the increase in these customs duties have been successful in reaching its goal of decreased imports and increased domestic production, sales and exports still remain.

Import and export data sourced from the World Trade Atlas (2013) and production and sales data sourced from Statistics South Africa (2013) show the following patterns in the clothing industry between 2009 and 2012:

  • Over the time period imports of the 124 clothing tariff lines increased by 15 percent, from approximately US$ 834 million in 2009 to approximately US$ 1.2 billion in 2012.
  • The top five importing countries were China, Mauritius, India, Madagascar and Bangladesh, accounting for 89 percent of the total imports of these clothing articles into South Africa over the time period.
  • China mainly exported men’s, boy’s, women’s and girl’s cotton trousers; knitted sweaters and pullovers; cotton and knitted t-shirts; and knitted babies’ garments to South Africa between 2009 and 2012.
  • South Africa’s exports of these clothing tariff lines increased by 6 percent, from approximately US$ 71 million in 2009 to approximately US$ 84 million in 2012.
  • These clothing articles were mainly exported to African countries, including Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
  • The production index of the physical volume of production (base year is 2005) show there has been a significant decrease in the volume of production of knitted and crocheted articles and wearing apparel in South Africa. The index decreased from an average of 108.11 in 2009 to an average of 79.82 in 2012.
  • The sales of knitted and crocheted articles and wearing apparel also declined over the time period. Actual value of sales declined by 3 percent, from approximately US$ 18 billion in 2009 to approximately US$ 16 billion in 2012.

Although there has not been a significant lapse of time since the increase of import tariffs the data gives the short term response of imports, exports, and production to the change in import duties in November 2009. Immediately after the increase in tariffs there was an initial decrease in exports, production and sales.  However, exports recovered by the end of 2012, while production and sales are still significant lower than pre-2009 levels. SACTWU has also recently indicated that employment in the clothing, textiles and leather sector seems to be more stable over the last two years. However, one of the main objectives of the increase in import duties, to deter lower priced imports mainly from Asia, has not been accomplished. Source and content credit – Willemien Viljoen, TRALAC Researcher.

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UCR and GS1 data to meet?

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

GS1 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of global specifications to manage the supply chain, including product identification codes, barcodes and business-to-business standards for the exchange of accurate data. After longstanding cooperation at the technical level, the WCO concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with GS1 in 2007 to formalize cooperative ties.

At the invitation of GS1, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, spoke at the GS1 Global Forum 2013 in Brussels on 18 February 2013 where he highlighted the increasing cooperation between the two organizations. Recalling the evolution of Customs with a heightened focus on data management for assessing risks in the supply chain, the Secretary General underlined the importance for Customs to explore the possibility of making use of supply chain specifications that are available in the trade, such as codes and specifications developed by GS1.

He specifically referred to the new WCO Economic Competitiveness Package to explain how Customs contributes to enhancing national competitiveness by facilitating trade using a risk management approach. As this requires the application of information technology, data and message standards, and consignment identifiers, it is important to employ existing technologies and tools in the trade supply chain, through a partnership with business.

Sharing a common interest in supply chain management, including track and trace systems, both organizations have been cooperating in many areas in a complementary manner, as the WCO facilitates Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to- business data exchange while GS1 also facilitates business-to-business data exchange.

Areas of cooperation between the two organizations include the work at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) on standardization and specifications for supply chain management, the work on the Unique Consignment Reference Number (UCR) and the use of GS1 data for Customs risk assessment purposes.

The most recent collaboration includes the addition of a barcode function to the Interface Public Members (IPM) – the WCO’s information tool to fight violations of intellectual property rights at borders. Secretary General Mikuriya urged GS1 members to leverage the collaboration with the WCO at the global level by getting in touch with their respective local Customs administrations. GS1 members appreciated his speech and pledged to explore and enhance cooperation with Customs administrations. Source: WCO

For more of the latest news and happenings at the WCO, please follow the news feed alongside (right).

Jamaica plans global logistics hub

The Port of Kingston – ripe for development

The Port of Kingston – ripe for development

The Government of Jamaica has revealed ambitious plans to turn the Caribbean island in to a global logistics hub – and high level talks have already begun with the aim of increasing volumes of sea cargo.

Projects under discussion include developing the Port of Kingston ahead of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the development of a new commodity port to be built in eastern Jamaica which will specifically handle petroleum products, coal, minerals and grain.

At the same time, there is talk of constructing an air cargo airport to help with increased volume of boxes and the construction of large scale ship repair docks to service the increasing volume of post-panamax vessels.

Dr Eric Deans, chairman of the Logistics Task Force, said a market of 800 million people, including the USA and Brazil, can be accessed readily from Jamaica. He said trade opportunities are due to “burst wide open with the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed in 2015; the multi-billion stimulus package by Brazil for World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016; and the growing middle class in Latin America.”

He added that a critical aspect of the global logistics hub initiative is the broadening of bilateral collaborations with Jamaica’s global partners, and encouraging private sector investment and financing through private-public partnerships (PPPs).

Talks regarding the set-up of special economic zones are already underway with local and foreign investors.

The Jamaica Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, which is spearheading the initiative, says that it will help give the country a global logistics supply chain that is able to compete with the likes of Singapore, Dubai and Rotterdam.

Perhaps this initiative could spur on our local authorities to actually move on ‘logistics hubs’ here in South Africa. While the huge expansion plans for our existing harbours, railroads are pursued, it is high time that the likes of Tamboekiesfontein, for instance, and other privately initiated transit hubs are taken seriously, and in an integrated manner to benefit commerce and trade in the Southern African region.

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Finding the best solution for 100% container weight verification

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

Bromma load verification sensing technology (www.bromma.com)

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has helped the container handling industry to put focused attention on the issue of container weight verification. The IAPH and the International Shipping Organization have called for near 100 per cent container weight verification as a standard industry ‘best practice’. IAPH has recognised the value of container weight verification for both safety and operational reasons. Accurate container weights can help guide critical plans regarding stowage, and verifiable load data also serves to ensure worker safety. Lifting containers within an acceptable weight range also prevents accelerated stress on the spreader, thus extending equipment life.

The issue that organisations such as IAPH and the World Shipping Council have raised is not merely an academic one, studies of container weight indicate that there is often significant variation between listed and actual container weight. The problem is a familiar one: not everyone tells the truth about their weight, as the consequences of inaccurate weight can include equipment damage in ports, injury to workers and collapsed container stacks, among others.

The question is ‘how’, not ‘should’?

The general consensus has grown that universal container weight verification is a worthy standard, the key question has quickly begun to shift from whether we should we have a universal requirement to how we can best implement this commitment. Along these lines three general approaches might be possible.

The container crane option

The first possible approach is to utilise container cranes to meet the weighing requirement. The advantage of weight verification by cranes is that weighing occurs during the normal course of handling operations. The disadvantage of a crane-based approach is that weighing accuracy is only approximately 90-95 per cent, and cranes cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers when lifting in twin-mode. Since many terminals load and unload container ships using twin-lift/twin-20 foot spreaders, the actual weight of each of these individual containers will remain in doubt if there is a reliance on container cranes to yield this data. Also, with the emergence of the mega-ship era, more and more terminals will be looking for productivity solutions that enable more containers to be handled in each lift cycle, and so twin-handling of 40 and 20 foot containers is likely to expand in the future, thus adding to the number of containers with an uncertain weight.

The weigh bridge option

A second option for terminals would be to meet the container weight requirement through the use of weigh bridges. Unfortunately, there are multiple weaknesses in this approach.Containers can be weighed from the weigh bridge, but driving every container onto a weigh bridge will obviously add another operational step, and slow productivity. It also requires, especially at larger and busier transhipment terminals, that considerable land and transit lanes be set aside for weighing activities. In addition, there are two weight variables on the weigh bridge – the variable weight of up to 300 litres of truck fuel and the weight of the driver. Further, as with a container crane, a weigh bridge cannot distinguish between the weights of two containers, and so the weight of each individual container will always be inexact. The only way to gain a precise weight is to weigh one container at a time, and to adjust for fuel weight and driver weight variables.

The spreader twist lock option

The third option is to ascertain container weight from the spreader twist locks. For container terminals, a spreader-based weighing approach has several key advantages. Firstly, weighing from the spreader twist locks yields much more accurate information, as container weight precision is greater than 99 per cent. Secondly, unlike weigh bridges or crane-based container weighing, spreaders weigh each container separately when operating in twin-lift mode. When a Bromma spreader lifts two 20 foot containers or two 40 foot containers at a time, the spreader can provide highly accurate data on the weight of each separate container, and without any of the variables (fuel, driver) associated with the weigh bridge approach.

In addition, with a spreader-based approach you weigh containers from the spreader twist locks without adding any extra operational steps or requiring any extra space or transit lanes. Terminals simply log container weights in the normal course of lifting operations – with a warning system alerting the terminal to overloaded and eccentric containers. Container weight verification during the normal course of terminal operations is a way to accomplish the weighing mission without impairing terminal productivity, and especially at busy transhipment terminals. To read the full report, Click Here!

Source: www.porttechnology.org

Future X-Ray Insepction Equipment to be based on Industry Standards

Smiths Detection HCV Scanner setup routine (Picture credit - Mercator Media)

Smiths Detection HCV Scanner setup routine (Picture credit – Mercator Media)

Innovative technology for the non-intrusive inspection of cargo and vehicles has rapidly emerged over the last decade to become a significant factor in port and border protection and homeland security. Several hundred high-energy mobile and fixed-site X-ray inspection stations are deployed throughout the world to examine passenger cars, trucks, trains, and shipping containers that transport goods bound for international destinations. Behind the scenes, cargo screening technology continues to be a story of innovation and change, driven by keen competition and a common mission to improve global security.

Early cargo screening systems were relatively slow and expensive to operate. They produced a limited resolution single-energy X-ray image, often using an isotope source such as Cobalt-60. The imaging software was rudimentary, and limited to simple controls such as pan and zoom, while computer processing speeds significantly limited inspection throughput. By contrast, most systems today are accelerator-based, which allows for higher energies, faster operation, and more precise controls. These systems incorporate software that takes advantage of improved computing platforms and features increasingly sophisticated analytics – this power has paved the way for the use of dual-energy accelerator sources and advanced detectors to facilitate material discrimination, enabling inspectors to identify threat objects more quickly, based on their composition.

Future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs. With numerous competitors in the market, suppliers are motivated to continually improve their products. However, a more nuanced understanding incorporates the role of component technologies and the core capabilities of the technology developer. Each of these constituents influence and are influenced by their respective technology and regulatory standards, which then ultimately impact the products available to the customer. For the full report with diagrams, Click Here!

Component technologies and their standards are often driven by the needs of other markets and may only be tangentially connected with the market of interest. Consequently, developers often have minimal influence on these technology standards but will benefit by leveraging the investments already made by other organizations. ‘Components’ may be subassemblies (such as a computer graphics card) or entirely separate systems (such as a cloud computing service) that can be incorporated into a screening system to provide a complete customer solution. System providers benefit from these parallel technologies and component standards because they provide innovative insights and functional capabilities, such as interoperability, interchangeability, and known performance characteristics. In the case of cargo screening, there are many component technologies that are potential sources of future innovation. A few notable examples are described later in the report.

Because cargo screening is a youthful market with changing customer requirements and technology that is evolving to meet those requirements, existing industry standards are still in flux. This is beneficial for the cargo screening industry in that it provides ample room for innovation and development. As cargo screening technology continues to evolve and mature, the community will develop consensus in more areas and create additional standards. However, the standards process is slow and seldom speaks to the most current technology issues in an industry. For example, material discrimination is an important new feature offered by many cargo screening systems, yet there is little guidance from current industry standards to assess the performance of this technology. Source: www.porttechnology.org