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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Stop illegal clothing imports

08-12-08

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is horrified at the report in Business Day on 8 December 2008 that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) have seized 60 tons of clothes imported illegally from China and shipped through Botswana.

This is grim news indeed for thousands of South African clothing and textile workers, as they already face a black Christmas, with their jobs and living standards under threat, as the industry defends itself against the effects of the world economic slowdo wn, and the flood of cheap imports from China, produced by workers with few human rights who receive poverty wages.

It is bad enough that so many Chinese clothing imports - worth R15,3bn a year - are arriving legally. But this report suggests that even more tons of good are flooding in illegally. What is still more disturbing is the statement by SARS spokesman, Adrian L ackay, that the 60 tons of goods, were destined for the shelves of three big retailers& believed to be listed companies.

COSATU demands to know the names of these companies, who are clearly involved, even if unintentionally, in an attempt to break the law. We can then ask consumers to boycott these shops, as part of the Buy Local! Campaign, which was launched last weekend an d is continuing on 13 December.

The department of trade and industry has already expressed concern about massive and systemic fraud involving clothing imports from China. Business Day quotes SARS statistics that show that textiles and apparel worth R15,3bn were exported from China to SA last year, yet invoices reflected imports worth only R6,1bn, representing a 60% shortfall in invoicing.

It is alleged that trans-shipment - masking the original country of origin by relabeling and rerouting goods through a third country - has surged, as many importers fraudulently bypass the quotas on Chinese clothing and textile imports. Statistics showed, for instance, a 93% rise in clothing imports from Zimbabwe, which could only be explained by trans-shipment.

COSATU will give SARS every support in its drive to intensify its crackdown this month, targeting in SAs borders with Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana, and will be intensifying both its Buy Local! campaign and its campaign, with the SA government, for a worl d trade deal that provides much higher tariff protection from cheap-labour imports which threaten to destroy our manufacturing industries.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

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