The General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Mr. Eddie Makue, has commended government plans to introduce new quotas on clothing imports from China.
"The SACC and the larger international ecumenical movement have been longstanding advocates of fair trade, as opposed to free trade," Makue said today. "The restrictions announced by government are consistent with the principles articulated by the global campaign for trade justice."
The Rev. Malcom Damon, Director of the Economic Justice Network, a project of the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, also welcomed the move. "It is good that government is not just considering the interests of retailers, but is also responding to the urgent need to protect domestic industries and provide jobs for South African families."
Last year, the National Executive of the SACC expressed alarm at the number of jobs being lost in South Africa, particularly in the textile sector, and asked COSATU to lead a "Save Jobs Campaign" to protect South African industries from unfair competition and to promote international fair labour practices that respect human rights and dignity.
Together with COSATU and other civil society organisations, the SACC sent memoranda to the leading clothing retailers calling on them to sign a code of conduct that would include a commitment to sourcing a substantial proportion of their stock from domestic manufacturers.
"Unfortunately, retailers did not respond favourably to the idea of a negotiated code of conduct," said the Rev. Keith Vermeulen, Director of the SACC's Parliamentary Office and one of the leaders of the Save Jobs Campaign. "We are pleased that government has seen the need for action."
The General Secretary noted that COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA are developing joint initiatives to promote compliance with the new regulations. "The SACC would want to support the trade union movement in their efforts in this regard," Makue said. He indicated that the Council would also be writing to the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) to express approval of the quotas.
For more information on the ecumenical Global Trade Campaign, please visit the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. For more on the Save Jobs Campaign and the SACC's involvement in the April 2005 Global Week of Action on Trade, see the SACC web site.
For more information contact: Rev. Keith Vermeulen, 021 423 4261 or 082 523 0701
8 September 2006