The eyes of the world are being opened to a tragedy far, far greater than that in Sudan, and with more disturbing implications for our planet than the war on terrorism or global climate change: the tragedy of the 40 million jumpers, 50 million pairs of trousers and one billion bras being piled up in European warehouses and ports as a result of the restrictions on Chinese clothes imports into the EU.
All over Europe shoppers are terrified of the very real possibility of the shelves of Zara, Mango and H & M having slightly less cheap Chinese-made garments. Says recently laid-off factory operative Edna Typical, 22, a woman who already owns more clothes than the entire population of Jiangsu Province, “Am I to wander the cavernous empty shopping centres of my land unshod, with nary a stitch of clothing, bereft of accesories? Can not the Governments of the world see a way to resolving this catastrophe to the benefit of consumers?!”
The crisis is being watched anxiously in the clothes’ home villages in China. The China Daily quotes one woman as saying, “I work 12 hours a day in basically inhumane conditions for the equivalent of three dollars a day to produce those clothes, and it breaks my heart to think that those poor Western consumers might soon only be able to make four as opposed to twelve separate clothes purchases on a single Saturday afternoon. Long live Chairman Mao.”
Pressure is indeed mounting on those governments to take immediate action to Free The Chinese Clothes. According to one real person on the radio who I have honestly not just made up, “the priority now is to find some way to get those garments onto the shelves in time for the Winter Collection”.
One solution that has been mooted is to move forward next year’s quota of Chinese clothes imports. However, this will inevitably lead to problems next year, when the 2007 quota will have to be brought forward to 2006, and so on, and so on, until the world ends, or Peter Mandelson dies, whichever happens first.
In the meantime millions and millions of human beings who are happy to do nothing whatsoever with their free time apart from eating junk food, watching home improvement shows and shopping for that perfect £6.99 spangly green top are in for an uncertain weekend.