The Multifibre Agreement (MFA) was an international trade agreement on textiles and clothing, in force from 1974 to 2004. It has imposed quotas on the quantity of clothing and textile exports from developing countries to industrialized countries. There are many reasons for the slow integration of trade in textiles and clothing, but most have been fuelled by protectionist elements for which rapid trade liberalization would have a negative impact on certain interest groups in countries where quotas are available. Despite its guiding principles, ATC`s flexibility has certainly been fully exploited. Most importantly, the list of products in the ATC was extremely broad and included many products that were not previously limited by quotas. However, their inclusion allowed large importing countries to first “integrate” such products or, certainly, to include them as part of “products that had been brought into conformity with GATT principles”. For example, an Oxfam report stated that “37% of products on the ATC list have never been restricted by the United States” (2004). The report cites the example of the EU, which in 1995 “pseudo-integrated” (hitherto unlimited) objects such as parachute parts, typewriter strips and doll clothes. Of the four countries listed above, Norway stands out for its rapid progress in integrating textile and clothing trade into the ATC. While these measures are certainly contrary to the spirit of ATC, they may have been the most relevant in uncovering ATC`s intrinsic weaknesses.

Others might argue that it was precisely this flexibility that originally led to agreement on such a key issue, and the ATC is certainly now considered one of the remarkable successes of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. However, the natural consequence of backloading when quotas were abolished was that the final phase was the most disruptive of all, for both importing and exporting countries. In any system setting quotas for individual exporting countries, exporters could try to circumvent quotas by sending products through third countries or by providing false information about the country of origin of the products. The agreement contained provisions to deal with these cases. There are of course some debates about long-term sustainability and even the desire for some of the developments that have taken place. .