Apparel export quotas that defined the worldwide garment trade for four decades ended on 1 January 2005. Trade data since then suggest that production has shifted from Southeast Asia to China. For the most developed countries in Southeast Asia, the loss of the garment industry will be a tolerable inconvenience. But it will devastate countries whose economies depend on such exports. An extreme example is Cambodia, three-fourths of whose exports are apparel. Are the threads from which these poor economies hang about to break? Is this industrys migration out of Southeast Asia inevitable and irrevocable? What, if anything, can governments and companies in the region do?
Geoffrey Stafford earned his PhD in political science (1998) and an MA in Southeast Asian studies (1996) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing his dissertation, Globalization Amid Diversity: Economic Development Policy in Multi-Ethnic Malaysia 1987-1997, he joined a large retailer to work on issues of corporate social responsibility in the global garment-manufacturing arena. In that capacity he is now analyzing the effects of quota termination on the world apparel industry. He has taught the politics of Southeast Asia at the University of San Francisco.