Legal Documents

Agreement on textiles and clothing

The object of this negotiation has been to secure the eventual integration of the textiles and clothing sector — where much of the trade is currently subject to bilateral quotas negotiated under the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) — into the GATT on the basis of strengthened GATT rules and disciplines.

The object of this negotiation has been to secure the eventual integration of the textiles and clothing sector — where much of the trade is currently subject to bilateral quotas negotiated under the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) — into the GATT on the basis of strengthened GATT rules and disciplines.

Integration of the sector into the GATT would take place as follows : first, on 1 January 1995; each party would integrate into the GATT products from the specific list in the Agreement which accounted for not less than 16 per cent of its total volume of imports in 1990. Integration means that trade in these products will be governed by the general rules of GATT.

At the beginning of Phase 2, on 1 January 1998, products which accounted for not less than 17 per cent of 1990 imports would be integrated. On 1 January 2002, products which accounted for not less than 18 per cent of 1990 imports would be integrated. All remaining products would be integrated at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2005. At each of the first three stages, products should be chosen from each of the following categories: tops and yarns, fabrics, made-up textile products, and clothing.

All MFA restrictions in place on 31 December 1994 would be carried over into the new agreement and maintained until such time as the restrictions are removed or the products integrated into GATT. For products remaining under restraint, at whatever stage, the agreement lays down a formula for increasing the existing growth rates. Thus, during Stage 1, and for each restriction previously under MFA bilateral agreements in force for 1994, annual growth should be not less than 16 per cent higher than the growth rate established for the previous MFA restriction. For Stage 2 (1998 to 2001 inclusive), annual growth rates should be 25 per cent higher than the Stage 1 rates. For Stage 3 (2002 to 2004 inclusive), annual growth rates should be 27 per cent higher than the Stage 2 rates.

While the agreement focuses largely on the phasing-out of MFA restrictions, it also recognizes that some members maintain non-MFA restrictions not justified under a GATT provision. These would also be brought into conformity with GATT within one year of the entry into force of the Agreement or phased out progressively during a period not exceeding the duration of the Agreement (that is, by 2005).

It also contains a specific transitional safeguard mechanism which could be applied to products not yet integrated into the GATT at any stage. Action under the safeguard mechanism could be taken against individual exporting countries if it were demonstrated by the importing country that overall imports of a product were entering the country in such increased quantities as to cause serious damage — or to threaten it — to the relevant domestic industry, and that there was a sharp and substantial increase of imports from the individual country concerned. Action under the safeguard mechanism could be taken either by mutual agreement, following consultations, or unilaterally but subject to review by the Textiles Monitoring Body. If taken, the level of restraints should be fixed at a level not lower than the actual level of exports or imports from the country concerned during the twelve-month period ending two months before the month in which a request for consultation was made. Safeguard restraints could remain in place for up to three years without extension or until the product is removed from the scope of the agreement (that is, integrated into the GATT), whichever comes first.

The agreement includes provisions to cope with possible circumvention of commitments through transshipment, re-routing, false declaration concerning country or place of origin and falsification of official documents.

The agreement also stipulates that, as part of the integration process, all members shall take such actions in the area of textiles and clothing as may be necessary to abide by GATT rules and disciplines so as to improve market access, ensure the application of policies relating to fair and equitable trading conditions, and avoid discrimination against imports when taking measures for general trade policy reasons.

In the context of a major review of the operation of the agreement to be conducted by the Council for Trade in Goods before the end of each stage of the integration process, the Council for Trade in Goods shall by consensus take such decisions as it deems appropriate to ensure that the balance of rights and obligations in this agreement is not upset. Moreover, the Dispute Settlement Body may authorise adjustments to the annual growth of quotas for the stage subsequent to the review with respect to Members it has found not to be complying with their obligations under this agreement.
A Textiles Monitoring Body (TMB) oversees the implementation of commitments and to prepare reports for the major reviews mentioned above. The agreement also has provisions for special treatment to certain categories of countries — for example, those which have not been MFA members since 1986, new entrants, small suppliers, and least-developed countries.

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