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Apparel labeling laws make German business bristle

Garments sold in German shops may have to introduce a form of social labeling to re-assure consumers that minimum labor conditions have been met by suppliers. Clothes tagged with the special label will come from conditions where seamstresses involved in production can live from their work and ecological standards were complied with. The aim is to develop a fair trade textile label covering the entire supply chain from the cotton field to the hanger.

German NGOs and businesses have attacked the social labeling plans. Apparel producers say the approach is unrealistic. They say it is difficult to completely control such a complex supply chain since it is almost impossible to monitor every step of the production process.

Their main argument is that they already have to carry a large number of labels and they are not sure what a future label could really bring that is positive. Previous initiatives to improve human rights standards in the supply chain were faced with the supplier companies' failure to comply with required social standards.

German authorities say labeling is necessary since unbelievable conditions often prevail in countries where the clothes are produced, with workers forced to toil for long hours and for subsistence wages.