Updated: Jan 8, 2021
As many of you may recall, there was a time when global trade in textiles and apparel was regulated by a system of quotas operated under the auspices of an international agreement called the Multifiber Arrangement (or MFA).
As a consultant, I am often asked by sourcing people to talk about those days and how the global business then was different from what we know today. Were prices higher or lower? Were there more suppliers competing in the market or less? Did quotas help some exporting countries at the expense of others? With quotas in place, was sourcing strategy tougher?
To help address these and other questions, I have prepared the following essay looking at various sources of information about the MFA, how it operated, why it was dismantled and how its impact on the global textile and apparel industry was far reaching and is still felt to this day. I recommend reading all of the selected sources described below for those of you interested in learning more about the MFA and how various authors described the agreement over time -- that is, the historiography (or a review) of many of the books and articles written about the agreement over the years. [Note: This essay is a little long for a blog, so you may want to download a PDF copy HERE.]