Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Local manufacturers aren't ready to throw in the towel

PROTECTION SOUGHT Many firms are standing up to pressure from China-based Taiwanese and calling on the government to adopt import-protection measures

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Towel manufacturers suffering from a flood of China-made imports will take to the streets this Tuesday to urge the government to adopt "import relief measures" to rescue traditional industries.

Towel manufacturers and their counterparts from the ceramics, furniture and hosiery industries told a press conference yesterday that the march is aimed at countering pressure from China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, known as taishang, who have been lobbying against restrictions.

Since towel manufactures requested import relief measures last August, the Chinese government has asked Wang Wen-yuan (王文淵), president of the Taiwan Textile Federation, to persuade the government to drop the idea, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said.

"As a result of pressure from Wang and other taishang, the government recently shifted from its initial inclination to adopt import-relief measures," Lai said. "It has tried to convince towel manufacturers to adopt anti-dumping measures instead."

Wang, managing director of Formosa Chemicals, had no comment about Lai's accusations.

Lin Kuo-long (林國隆), secretary-general of the association of towel manufacturers based in Yunlin County, said Wang had tried to persuade the manufacturers to back down.

Lai said anti-dumping steps are a slow-paced remedy that cannot salvage a critical situation.

"The import-relief measure allows the government to negotiate with China on raising its import quota, while anti-dumping measures are a stalling measure that takes up time in evidence-gathering," Lai said.

"Our local industries have almost been felled by inferior China-made towels, whose prices are about a third cheaper on average than local products," Lin said.

"In addition, many of these Chinese products are falsely labeled `Made in Taiwan' in order to deceive consumers," Lin said.

According to a report by the International Trade Commission, the market share of China-made towels has grown from zero to 70 percent in four years, while the market share of domestically produced towels has decreased by 50 percent.

The commission looked at the influence of China-made towels on the market since China and Taiwan entered the WTO in 2002. Its report was issued on Wednesday.

"The annual output of towels produced in Huwei [虎尾], Yunlin County, used to account for 95 percent of the country's total towel production, and was worth about NT$2.5 billion [US$76.78 million]. Now it is down to NT$500 million," Lin said.

"The biggest factory in the country closed last year because of its huge losses and a proprietor committed suicide because of the failure of his business," he said.

The government will announce its decision on import-relief measures on March 25.

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