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Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua,Minister of State for Finance and Transport, at Opening Ceremony of APPAREL ASIA and YAFA Asia 2005, 18 October 2005, 10.15 am at Suntec Singapore

18 Oct 2005

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning,

1. I am very happy to join you this morning for the Official Opening of the 2005 APPAREL ASIA and Yarns & Fabrics Asia, or YAFA. Many of you are professionals and experts from the garment and textile industry, coming from more than a dozen Asian countries. To all our overseas friends, may I extend a warm welcome to Singapore. You have all come together to showcase your products and expertise and at the same time network with the more than 6,000 trade visitors to the exhibitions over the next four days.

2. I note that APPAREL ASIA and YAFA Asia are being held for the first time in conjunction with the Singapore Fashion Week. This arrangement provides an excellent opportunity for the synergy of creative ideas and innovations between two inter-related industries: the garment and textile industry and the fashion industry. On the one hand, the fashion designers can learn of the latest technological inventions in the textile industry and, by harnessing this new-found knowledge and possibilities, they can create new designs. On the other hand, the garment and textile professionals can learn of the latest fashion trends and thinking from the designers and explore new ways to support them. Such an approach gives great value add to both industries and presents tremendous opportunities for market growth.


3. Asia has the largest concentration of textile economies in the world. With the Chinese and Indian economies booming, there is much potential to be tapped. The fundamentals of the industry in Asia are strong. Asia has a myriad of cultures, known for its colour, creativity in design and workmanship. As a major supplier of textile and garments, we have a large pool of labour and an abundance of resources that enable us to produce goods in a cost-effective manner. The Asian market is growing and will continue to grow, steadily and surely. A new tapestry of opportunities and challenges exists for the market.


4. One of the key factors which have helped open up opportunities is the expiration of quotas under the Multi Fibre Agreement. The Multi-Fibre Agreement, introduced in 1974, imposes strict quotas on the import of clothing and textiles into the US and EU ? two of the biggest markets in the world. With quotas allocated to each country effectively guaranteeing market access, manufacturers have sprung up in the most unlikely places which, prior to the quota system, had no significant textile industry.

5. The expiration of quotas in January this year not only freed up the market, it also created intense competition for the over US$400 billion global garment market. Against this new scenario, garment and textile manufacturers have to devise new game plans in order to survive. The lifting of quotas also meant that buyers of garment and textile now have a bigger arena to play in. Price will no longer be the only deciding factor. The uniform playing field allows buyers to consider other factors like quality, timely delivery, sourcing concerns, customs enforcement efforts and the perceived value that suppliers can add to help buyers reduce costs. Other considerations are the globalisation of production, formation of strategic alliances among producers and sourcing agents, and having in place an integrated supply chain management that offers customers the right products at the right time and price.

6. To stay relevant to the expectations of the buyers, suppliers need to tap on the market strength to create competitive merchandise. It will be a challenge for suppliers to regionalise the production pattern in order to achieve proximity to the markets. Only enterprises that have reached international standards in terms of equipment, technology and product quality will have an edge on global competition.


7. With the phasing out of Textile Quota in 2005, South Asia and South East Asia have emerged as important sourcing bases for buyers in US and EU. Located strategically in Asia Pacific, Singapore is one of the region's key business centres with established financial, logistic and legal infrastructure to reach out to the rest of Asia. We also have excellent connectivity with the major markets. For example there are at least 11 sailings to the US every week and apparel manufactured out of South Asia are consolidated here first before leaving for the US. Singapore has grown into a regional textile and apparel hub, an ideal meeting place for buyers and suppliers.

8. Currently, there are more than 70 international buying houses in Singapore, many of which are the regional sourcing hubs for South and South East Asia. Together, they source about US$2.5 billion worth of apparel and textile products per year through Singapore. These buying offices generate a multifold economic spin offs for Singapore's economy by generating jobs, and creating demand for financial or business activities.

9. In order to create a platform to increase and facilitate textile and apparel buying activities for Singapore-based companies, I am pleased to announce that the Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore has set up the Buying House Council in Singapore.

10. The Council aims to serve as a conduit for regional buyers and vendors to network by providing pro-active business matching function through a database to be set up by the Council next year. With businesses done through Singapore, more regional companies will anchor their office in Singapore with the help of the Council, thereby creating more jobs as well as providing more businesses for supporting industries like the banks and logistic companies in Singapore.


11. In this post-quota era, it is imperative that textile and garment manufacturers develop higher value-added services in design and product development as well as technical and production planning in order to stay competitive. Hence for TaFf and CEMS to organise fashion and design related shows alongside events that casts the spotlight on manufacturing at this year's Singapore Fashion Week, is a commendable move and a timely reminder for the exhibitors to think beyond manufacturing.

12. Singapore Fashion Week has been a successful platform for new designers to promote their creative talents to regional markets. Regional designers look to the Singapore Fashion Week to showcase their works and buyers look towards Singapore for fashion trends. We hope to see many more fashion buying houses, sourcing agents and manufacturers talent scout for their design and product development teams at Singapore Fashion Week.

13. It is indeed gratifying to see our homegrown events growing and developing into key flagship events for the industry. I have every confidence that Singapore Fashion Week, APPAREL Asia and YAFA Asia will continue to grow.

14. On this note, it gives me great pleasure to declare APPAREL ASIA and YAFA ASIA 2005 open.