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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Voices from China's textile firms
After a turbulent week for talks with the EU and the US aimed at restraining China's surging textile exports, the BBC News website spoke to the deputy manager of a factory in Shanghai, a garment worker in northern China and an exporter based in Hong Kong.

They put forward their views on how quotas from the EU and the US have affected their lives and livelihoods.

MR XIA, FACTORY DEPUTY MANAGER, SHANGHAI

Chinese factory workers in Anhui
The EU and the US are trying to curb Chinese imports
My factory specialises in producing trousers, shirts and jackets. We take orders from foreign countries such as the US, France and Italy.

We employ 1500 people and have been known to produce hundreds of thousands of garments in one month. At the beginning of this year our business grew very quickly. But we had no warning from the EU or the US about the limits.

Now everything is changing. The scale of production has drastically dropped.

Many skilled workers have left our factory. Before these limits, skilled workers would get about 2000 renminbi ($245, 150) a month. Now, they only get 500 or 600 renminbi. People are no longer willing to work for that.

Our factory has also changed strategy. We are now exporting to places like South Africa, Australia and South America.

We also intend to build factories in foreign countries like Jordan or South Africa. We want to cut the material in China and do the final assembly and finishing in other foreign countries.

There is no business. I see ghost factories
Mr Xia
In the second half of last year many new garment factories opened up. Suddenly, they've all collapsed. There is no business. I see ghost factories. Some small factories were dependent on foreign orders and exports. Without orders, even the bosses are jobless.

I get a bit angry because many of our workers are skilled and they depend on this skill to live. Many specialise in embroidery and heavily worked garments. Such specialism is of no use to other industries, although some have found assembly work in electronic companies.

Chinese companies should be strong because labour is comparatively cheap. But now these people find themselves jobless.

The situation makes me very sad.

LI-YONG, FACTORY WORKER, NORTHERN CHINA

Chinese factory workers
Li-Yong: Workers have left jobs because salaries have decreased
I am 30 years old but I have been working in textiles for eight years. For the last two years I have been working at a factory that specialises in producing trousers and shirts.

My main skill is sewing and ironing the garments before they are sent out. I came from the countryside, far away in Anhui province, to find work in the city.

City people don't like to work in garment factories so most of my co-workers are migrants from rural areas.

I have felt the impact of quota reductions personally. The biggest effect is that my salary is much lower because orders have gone down. This has meant that my living standard has also declined.

This is very worrying because if I cannot earn more money I will have to leave this company. I have a big family to feed. Most of the workers in this company have been very worried about the situation and already over 100 workers have left.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The dash to China for all manufactured goods has caused the UK to shrink its manufacturing base
Stuart, Nottingham

If salaries continue to go down and people do not find work elsewhere, people will have to go back to work in the countryside.

I appeal for this issue be resolved as soon as possible.

JAN ROSSEL, EXPORTER, HONG KONG

Workers lining up outside a factory in Dhaka
Garments from Bangladesh are quota and duty free
My company exports and manufactures garments from China. We subcontract factories to make a variety of products such as linens, silks and t-shirts.

The factory owners I work with are scared.

They have high operational costs and a lot of people to pay. A lot of them are stuck with fabric they can't start sewing because they can't ship it.

We expanded quickly over the last three years in preparation for a quota-free world. We're a big production. Turnaround is three months from order to warehouse and we can make up to 10,000 pieces in a particular style.

Chinese factories have just grown and grown. I've followed China's progress over the last decade and seen huge difference in terms of infrastructure and government attitudes.

But now, I hear rumours that as many as 10m people could be made jobless. All China has done is gear up for quota-free status. Europe and the US have had years to prepare for this. Nobody in Shanghai understands why they did not.

I am shifting focus to other markets. I'm doing business in quota-free Australia and Canada. We will also have to move production to India, Thailand or Malaysia.

But these countries lack the specialist skills that China has and production is more difficult to control.

China has serious advantages: cheap labour and the skill set to produce garments that Europe simply cannot. A lot of the popular items we get orders for are complex and heavily beaded, and the skills and fabrics simply don't exist in Europe. Nowhere is as competitive for quality and price.

China has serious advantages: cheap labour and the skill set to produce garments that Europe simply cannot
Jan Rossel
Yet I don't think we are taking business away from Europe. It has an important niche in making simple products that don't take a lot of handling as manpower is costly.

Bangladesh, which has cheap labour, makes similar garments and is quota and duty free. If business was going to leave Europe, it would have gone to Bangladesh years ago.




SEE ALSO:
Low-cost China eyes luxury future
01 Sep 05 |  Business



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