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[Opinion] Second Bra War

Posted January. 16, 2004 23:27,   


Which country brings out the glamour of the breast in U.S. women? When we look into the trade conflicts between the U.S. and China, the answer seems to be China. In November 2003, when the U.S. announced its intention to apply the trade quarter system on the import of bras, knits, and nightgowns from China, China made it clear that they would angrily file a complaint to the World Trade Organization. It is the so-called “Bra War.”

The textile goods depend mostly on dexterity rather than technology and advanced knowledge. In the factory world, China has about 15 million laborers directly and 100 million people indirectly devoting themselves to the textile-related industries. Almost every bra made in China is exported to the U.S. As women purchase the brand-new underwear more immediately than they do other clothes, the bra, uniquely enough, is under good demand even in conditions of economic depression. That is because they want to relax and calm down themselves. As the economy in U.S. is still weak due to the phenomenon “Growth without employment,” and with cheap bras becoming harder to find, U.S. women, not to speak of China, are getting sensitive.

Behind the “Bra War,” there are the textile manufacturers of the U.S. They have lobbied the political world, which faces the upcoming presidential election, to rule out the cheap textile products imported from China. Although China, which had initially threatened to retaliate, started to negotiate with the U.S., the textile companies in Europe have kicked up a fuss this time. The Eura Tex, one of the textile associations in Europe, remarked that “If the imports continue to increase, the factories will close down, and the unemployment rate will skyrocket,” urging the administrative council of the EU to set an embargo on the import of chemical textile products. It seems that they have announced the second “Bra War” between Europe and China in advance.

Although the bra products imported from China become rarer, cheap bras from other countries will appear. However, the inside story is much more complicated that the strings of the bra. The U.S. needed an opponent to blame for its huge trade deficit, which reached $446 billion last year, and China, which accounted for 25 percent of this, was hooked into the U.S.’ spider web. EU has also participated in “Attacking China” movement, asserting that the fixation currency policy of China has made the dollar sink and the Euro soar. Probably, the ethic of the powerful is to return to the protective trade system urging the underdog to open up their market, and to attribute their economic problems to the other’s faults, which was originally caused by mistakes in policy-making.

Editorialist Kim Soon-duk. yuri@donga.com