An agreement to limit Chinese clothing and textile imports has brought mixed reaction, with labour in the textile industry welcoming the opportunity to rebuild the industry and the Democratic Alliance (DA) saying it will bring price increases.
The opposition party said it will ask the minister of trade and industry whether concerns of the clothing and textile retail industry were considered, as well as the implications for consumers and employment.
The South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (Sactwu) said on Monday that 55 000 new jobs could be created.
"We need to use the space created to ensure we make our factories state-of-the-art and improve training of workers on a scale that will develop South Africa into a world-class producer," said general secretary Ebrahim Patel.
"Over the past four years, the local fashion-manufacturing industry has lost approximately 67 000 jobs, largely as a result of a surge of imports from China," said Patel. "Over the same period, the five big retailers have recorded R18,1-billion in pre-tax profits. It is now time for retailers to work with the local manufacturing industry to place the country and employment before profits."
He said the vast volumes of imports from China have had a devastating impact, with factory closures in the poorest parts of the country such as Dimbaza in the Eastern Cape, which have become industrial ghost towns.