From The Editor: An Industry That Feeds Many Mouths

From The Editor

An Industry That Feeds Many MouthsOn a recent trip to Zambia, this editor had the opportunity
to visit a workshop that makes and sells hand-crafted textiles. Its scale is small and every
process, from dyeing to sewing, is done by hand. Yet, the company is the largest employer in the
region and it plays a pretty important role in the area’s ecomony and society.Globally, the textile
industry probably plays a similarly important role in many nations’ economy and growth, whether the
country has highly advanced and heavily automated mills or a collection of small family-run textile
shops. Because of this economic role the industry plays, it is understandable why much of the
current textile trade bickering surrounds the protection of jobs. The contention is many textile
jobs in many countries will be lost to China following the elimination of quotas.If other factors —
cost of manufacturing, quality of products, skills of labor, etc. — are set aside, can and should
trade policies be made based on who needs the job more, even though it goes against the principles
of free trade? If so, how should the needs be evaluated? Should all countries’ needs by measured on
the same parameters?The linens purchased in Zambia are not of the highest quality, nor are they
particularly inexpensive, but could these be overlooked because they provide economic independence
to many? Mabye.Carmen

May/June 2005