Relabelling of imported garments a threat to Caricom manufacturing sector

The Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) has echoed a sentiment expressed to Stabroek Business recently by a local seamstress regarding persons importing garments from the Far East, relabelling them and passing them off to consumers as Caribbean-made products.

The local seamstress, who operates from her home in Georgetown, told Stabroek Business she believed garments which were taken to her by clients for alternation, and which bore labels that suggested they were manufactured in Caribbean countries, could well have been manufactured in China. The seamstress told Stabroek Business that she could not say “for sure” whether such clothing was being sold locally since some of the clothing sent to her for alternation had been bought outside of Guyana.

In an article in the Barbados Advocate’s Business Monday this week, the Barbadian manufacturing sector was complaining about the practice and about the need to protect the region from the relabelling of extra-regional goods.

The observation was initially made by Barbadian Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development Denis Kellman and echoed by Executive Director of the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA), Bobbi McKay who is calling for measures to protect Caricom jobs from what she described as “this dangerous practice of relabelled goods from Caricom which have been made in the Far East countries.”

This newspaper’s own enquiries with small local clothing retailers proved inconclusive since most of them told Stabroek Business they do not customarily examine the labels of the clothing they sell. The local seamstress told Stabroek Business, however, that because alterations involved paying more detailed attention to the pieces taken to her, she would often observe the labels. “Because there is now a lot of Chinese-made clothing on the local market you become more familiar with the types of material and design,” she said.

In Barbados the problem appears to be much more severe where, according to McKay, both local manufacturers and retailers are into the relabelling business.
Article 84 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguramas states that goods seeking qualification for preferential benefits under Caricom must be wholly produced within the Caribbean Community; produced wholly or partly from materials imported from outside the community or from materials of undetermined origins by a process which effects a substantial transformation.

McKay says the relabelling places the regional garment-manufacturing industry at a serious disadvantage since its pricing is determined by the fact that it is required to produce products from scratch. She said “every single Barbadian company must seek now to ensure that if goods are marketed as coming from Caricom, they are, in fact, from the region. “

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