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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Saldanha Bay IDZ?

Its difficult not to be cynical…..after several failed and half-baked attempts at IDZs whats different about this one? Have the labour and tax issues changed?

A 60 day public consultation period for the designation of an Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in Saldanha Bay has begun. Members of the public can make use of this opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposed vision for Saldanha Bay as presented in the Application for IDZ Designation and Operator Permit for the Saldanha Bay IDZ document gazetted earlier last week. View the document here!

Collaboration between government, citizens and business is necessary to build a Western Cape that is a better place to invest, to do business, get a job and earn a living, for everyone. Saldanha Bay has long been acknowledged as an important resource for the sustainable growth and development of the West Coast region, and indeed, the whole of the Western Cape.

All indicators show that an Industrial Development Zone in Saldanha Bay would be to the benefit of the Western Cape, South Africa and the African continent as a whole in creating a functional, self-sustaining industry that contributes to economic development and sustainable employment. The Saldanha Bay Feasibility Study published in October 2011, found that there was sufficient non-environmentally sensitive land upon which an IDZ development could take place.

After a process of consolidation into an attainable business plan focussing on the Oil & Gas and Marine Repair Cluster, the socio-economic impacts were found to be that after 20 years, an IDZ in Saldanha Bay developed around these industries, would generate a minimum annual return of R11 billion for the economy and create over 25 000 sustainable jobs nationally.

The total contribution to GDP for the IDZ is expected to amount to R3.4 billion in the first year, increasing to nearly R6 billion in the second year. In the third year the contribution is expected to be slightly lower at R5.5 billion due to a decrease in capital spend, but then increasing by the twentieth year with a total annual contribution to GDP amounting to R11 billion.

Total direct and indirect jobs in the Western Cape are expected to amount to 4 492 in the first year, 8 094 in the second year, 7 274 in the third year, 10 132 in the fourth year and 14 922 in the fifth year. From the seventh year around 14 700 direct and indirect jobs would be sustained in the province as a result of the IDZ.

Saldanha Bay is an ideal location for the development of an Oil & Gas and Marine Repair Cluster. The Port of Saldanha Bay is also competitively located between the oil and gas developments on the West Coast of Africa, as well as the recent gas finds on the East Coast of Africa. South Africa is a significant industrial economy in the sub Saharan region and is logistically well connected to the region. It is therefore a natural location for providing repair and maintenance services, warehousing and logistics and professional/technical services where proximity to end location is an advantage. Source: Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development & Tourism

Interfront – Customs know-how and software

Forgive my exuberance and national pride, for one minute. After some years of intense re-organisation and strategization a new dynamic organization is set to spearhead ICT development in the Customs and Border Management industry. Many will know it by its previous name TATIS or TATIScms. The Cape Town based IT outfit is responsible for the intuitive customs software solution which currently operates in Luxembourg Customs. Let it be known that this is one tough space to operate and succeed in.

Africa, in particular, has  suffered the stigma of UN and World Bank ‘freebies’ by way of customs automated solutions – designed and developed by the west, on western philosophy with little concern for the longer term sustainability and development on the African continent. Before the emergence of commercial Windows-based software, African states (and most developing countries for that matter) had little option but to adopt ASYCUDA. The French colonies in the main sought franco-developed SOFIX. Bull Computers were particularly strong in this space and received great support from the French government in their ventures.

Just as the ‘power’ of the west is waning under financial and political turmoil, so developmental states and economies are looking to their own resources and expertise to fulfil their needs and destinies. A similar phenomenon occurred in the border and port control security space during the first decade of the 21st century, where the Chinese have virtually stolen international market share in NII (Cargo scanning) equipment.  Therefore the emergence of InterFront on the Customs ICT scene is both unique and timely. For more details on the new company and its partners, solutions and expertise please visit their website: http://www.interfront.co.za. Also read their corporate and product profile brochure – click here!

This week, Interfront are show-casing their solution and expertise at the WCO‘s 2012 ICT Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. With the international customs and border management relatively young and seeking stability, Interfront have a great opportunity to develop a regional and international footprint. SARS, in particular, looks forward to its new integrated customs solution; setting a new bench mark in global customs processing.