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Brussels, 14th June 2005

Textiles: High Level Group discusses industry challenges

The abolition of textile quotas on 1 January 2005 raises considerable challenges for the EU textiles industry. At its meeting today the Textiles High Level Group (THLG) called on the EU and national authorities to help address the structural changes taking place in the industry by attracting new investment, providing retraining opportunities and committing social relief to the hardest-hit regions. The meeting further stressed the importance for the industry to tap on the large potential for export to China and elsewhere offered by the liberalisation of textile trade. The Group expressed its support for the recent EU-China textile accord. In order to help the textile industry adjust to the changing competitive environment resulting from trade liberalisation, the EU and China have agreed to grant a three-year adaptation period during which the growth rate of Chinese textile imports will be limited in categories of concern.

Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said “In less than a decade the Chinese market for luxury goods will have risen to about 250 million people. Europe must therefore strike the right balance. The agreement with China is a good and fair deal for both sides. It gives respite and much-needed breathing space to European industry.”

Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen added “The inevitable development of restructuring does not deprive us from the responsibility to react and find answers to the socio-economic consequences. We have developed a clear industrial strategy for the European textile and clothing sector we will now implement step by step.”

Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik added “I believe that the EU textile industry can thrive if it continues to invest in new production processes and materials, in innovative design and manufacturing systems and in training and skills.”

The THLG brings together Europe’s Textile Producer Associations, the Commission and Member States.

It has identified the following objectives:

  • innovation, such as the new Strategic RTD Objective on “ICT for networked businesses”, collaboration schemes with the Innovation Relay Centres and the National Patent and Trademark Offices
  • research, for instance for technical textiles with high added value content, to develop new markets in construction, protective clothing and medical uses
  • An Action Plan on market access, which identifies the main barriers to access to third country markets in the textile and clothing sector and ways of addressing them.
  • protection of intellectual property rights: for instance, a new Helpdesk will provide assistance, in particular to SMEs
  • education and training, such as actions under the Leonardo da Vinci programme to develop common European qualification standards
  • dialogue with Europe’s Mediterranean partners: Urgent action so that the pending measures necessary to make effective the cumulation of origin for textile and clothing products within the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean zone are implemented by summer.

The Group encouraged all involved parties to continue their efforts in order to achieve the agreed objectives. It instructed its working groups to proceed with more in-depth analysis of the situation of SMEs with respect to access to financing and to their relations within the sectoral value chains. It also expressed concerns regarding the impact of the proposed chemicals REACH Regulation on the availability of lower volumes textile chemicals and on textile SMEs.

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