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The role of international trade in circular fashion: challenges and opportunities

Celso Furtado Conference Room

Session |
Thu, 27/04/2023 - 18:00 to 19:30

Organizer:  División de Comercio Internacional e Integración, CEPAL


Trade in used clothing has the potential of extending their lifecycle, allowing people in developing countries to purchase clothes at an affordable price, generating local employment, and reducing CO2 emissions. However, often these exports generate negative impacts in destination markets when the clothes are of poor quality and end up in landfills, where they are frequently burned and generate pollution.

The costs associated with the collection, sorting, transport and import of garments determine the profitability of the used clothing business in developing countries. The most complex and labor-intensive process is the sorting of garments according to their status (usable or non-usable), quality (brand, design, materiality, etc.) and type (pants, jacket, etc.). High-quality used clothes are re-sold within advanced countries (less than 10% of all collected textiles), whereas about two thirds of lower-quality clothes are exported to developing countries. An average import tariff of 19.2% on used clothing adds to its cost in the destination markets and adds to the disincentive to repair or resale.

In this context, it is urgent to analyze and debate the positive and negative contributions of international trade to circularity within fashion worldwide, including the avoidance of negative environmental impacts, such as in the Atacama desert in Chile. 

Goal: Discuss among the main actors, companies, government and NGOs:

  • a) the role of international trade in circular fashion
  • b) the creation of new incentives to reduce environmental impacts, particularly in the Atacama desert in Chile.