Is France gearing up for restrictions on China’s textile industry?
Published: Mar 18, 2024 09:43 PM
The night view of Paris Photo: VCG

The night view of Paris Photo: VCG

France's lower house of parliament approved a bill seeking penalties on fast fashion products on March 14. The bill calls for gradually increasing penalties up to 10 euros ($11) per individual item of clothing by 2030, as well as a ban on advertising for these products. The bill must head to the Senate before it becomes law.

According to their view, "The popularity of fashion retailers Shein and Temu has disrupted the retail sector while established players like Zara and H&M continue to largely rely on predicting shoppers' preferences."

The proposer of the bill, Anne-Cécile Violland, emphasized that it targets not only fast fashion brands like Primark, Shein, and Zara, but also e-commerce platforms such as Temu, AliExpress, Amazon and Zalando that sell fast fashion products.

Although the standards and thresholds for the companies covered by this bill have not been clearly defined, it is generally believed that it targets fast-rising and widely watched companies like Shein and Temu.

Their common feature is the clothing and textile supply chain in China, which reacts more quickly and agilely. 

Once this bill is passed, fast fashion brands like Primark, Shein, and Zara and their Chinese clothing supply chains, as well as platforms with a large number of clothing and fashion product merchants and sellers from China such as Temu, AliExpress, Zalando and Amazon will be affected. 

In recent years, with a strong industrial base and flexible supply chain model, Chinese-made fashion products are more diverse, updated faster, and have higher cost performance, attracting more purchases from French consumers and having an impact on the local retail industry in France. 

Agence France-Presse stated that a series of measures taken by the French National Assembly are particularly aimed at "large-scale manufacturers from China." 

An article published by French media, Les Echo, points out that the bill hides some potentially regrettable side-effects, unreasonable and naïve thinking, and less than legitimate motives. One side-effect is that the people who are ultimately impacted by this bill are not the "fashion victims" who are easily influenced by internet celebrities, but those from lower-income groups. 

It is also unreasonable and naïve because it is based on the assumption that a product that is 10 times more expensive must be at least 10 times more durable, but this is not always true in many cases. And finally, a clearly less than legitimate motivation is that this bill appears to be tailor-made to impact companies with connections to China's textile manufacturing supply chain. 

Zhao Yongsheng, a researcher at the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), said on March 15 that this bill clearly violates the "free trade" principles that Europeans have been advocating for many years and is a blatant step toward an "anti-globalization" approach, especially when it comes to France's trade policy toward China. 

Zhao further said that this bill, which lawmakers claim is aimed at curbing so-called "fast fashion," not only defies logic, but is also untenable from a legal standpoint. Replying on "closing doors" to foreign companies is an outdated approach in today's world and market. Instead, France should look inwards and evaluate the situation to effectively improve the competitiveness of their products.

In 2022, France was the second-largest importer of Chinese clothing.

Unlike the "new three" export products represented by electric passenger cars, lithium-ion batteries, and solar batteries, clothing is a traditional featured product among China's exports. 

In the field of clothing and fashion, well-known brands represented by Shein have emerged. Currently, Shein, Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M are among the top four global fashion brands. 

With the continuous upgrading of China's clothing and fashion industry, enterprises that leverage the Chinese supply chain, such as Shein, have become the rule makers and trend leaders of the entire industry, leading the entire domestic industry from the bottom of the global industry chain's "smile curve" to the brands and technology research and development that make up the other end of the chain.

This is also an important manifestation of the increasing influence of China's fashion industry globally. Additionally, a large number of Zara, H&M and even French retailer Decathlon's industrial chain suppliers are also located in China.

E-commerce platform companies represented by Temu, AliExpress, and TikTok Shop are also rapidly developing in markets such as Europe and the US, and products from the Chinese supply chain are quickly going global.

According to the 2024 State of Mobile report released by, a market analysis agency, Shein, Temu, and AliExpress ranked first, second, and ninth respectively in the global shopping app download rankings in 2023, while Amazon ranked third.

The lawmakers say the reason they are accelerating the introduction of restrictions on fast fashion companies is to "help offset their environmental impact." Shein stated that it produces clothes based on existing demand, which allows its rate of unsold garments to remain consistently in the low single digits, whereas traditional players can waste up to 40 percent.

Shein added that the only impact of the bill would be to "worsen the purchasing power of French consumers, at a time when they are already feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis."

The Chinese clothing and textile industry chain behind brands and e-commerce platforms such as Shein, Primark, Zara, and Temu has had a serious impact on French companies, which may be an important reason for the introduction of the bill by French lawmakers. This is not the first time that France has targeted China's advantageous industries.

In February, the French government announced the suspension of a plan to lease electric cars at affordable prices to low-income households. The program had only been implemented for six weeks. The plan is expected to be relaunched in 2025. 

French officials said the subsidy program was limited by the shortage of French electric cars and urged French automakers to speed up production. "There is huge market demand, but we don't have enough French products yet."

It is understood that electric cars eligible for this subsidy program must meet the latest "carbon footprint" and other relevant requirements set by the French government, which is believed to be aimed at excluding cheap Chinese electric cars. 

French National Radio reported earlier that many European and US electric cars would also be affected by the new regulations since they include parts made in China, which means there may be "very few" electric cars left to meet the new standards.

China subsequently launched an investigation into the price of brandy imported from the European Union, which was seen as a counterattack against the EU's investigation into the influx of cheap Chinese electric cars into Europe. France was the hardest hit, considering it accounts for 99.8 percent of all EU brandy exports.

While products from the Chinese clothing and fashion industry chain have rapidly grown in European markets such as France, especially luxury goods, perfumes, and cosmetics, other fashion brands products from France have seen a steady increase in sales in China. 

According to Bertrand Lortholary, the French ambassador to China, "France's exports of luxury goods to China have doubled in the past three years, including perfumes, cosmetics, fashion accessories, leather goods, jewelry, and wines and spirits." 

"Since 2021, China has become the main market for French cosmetics exports worldwide," he added.