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Web Exclusive | December 2016

EU closer to textile accord with Uzbek

The European Parliament is poised to approve a textile agreement with Uzbekistan, which is expected to lead to an increase in textiles imports from the country, despite ongoing concerns about the use of forced labour in cotton harvest. 

The EU has a free trade agreement with Uzbekistan for everything since 1999 except textiles as it was a sensitive issue in Europe. But since then, textiles have become variably less sensitive because they have less of a textile industry. And so it is no longer sensible to exclude textiles.

Even with absence of an agreement, Uzbek textiles flow easily into Europe because of low tariffs with the category second only to chemical products in EU imports from Uzbekistan, at €38 million last year. The EU is nearly tied with Kazakhstan as Uzbekistan's third-largest trade partner, behind China and Russia. Bilateral trade last year totaled almost €2 billion.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based campaign group, and other groups successfully lobbied opposition in the European Parliament to the Uzbek textile agreement ahead of a planned vote in 2011 over the use of child labour in the cotton harvest, with parliamentarians then voting 603-8 against moving forward.
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