The Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) was established in 1974 to regulate global trade in textile and apparel products. Under the MFA, Canada, the US, and the European Union (EU) could set limits, called quotas, on the amount of foreign made apparel and textiles they would allow into their countries from any specific producing country. Since 1974, import quotas have been applied to 73 countries in the global South, mostly in Asia.
In 1995, the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) came into effect, under which quotas were phased out in four stages over a ten-year period and eliminated on January 1, 2005.
January 1, 2005 marked a new era in the world garment industry.
The Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) promoted the development of new strategies and alliances to deal with the negative fall-out caused by the elimination of the import quota system and to put labour standards on the agenda in this highly competitive, post-quota environment.
To help strengthen the capacity of local groups to build national alliances and put forward their own demands, MSN produced educational resource materials, provided resource people for workshops in garment-producing countries, and helped to organize public forums in Central America, Thailand, Mexico and Canada.
At the international level, MSN was part of a multi-stakeholder initiative called the MFA Forum, which brought together retailers and brands, trade unions, NGOs, and national and multi-lateral public institutions to identify and promote collaborative strategies to support vulnerable national garment industries and greater respect for workers' rights. The MFA Forum ended its work in March 2011, although MSN continues to work with a multi-stakeholder Americas Working Group which came out of the forum, dealing with issues specific to Mexico and Central America.