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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 6 November 2013

VP Tajani: we need an action plan for the fashion and high-end industries

If industry is the foundation of the European economy, then fashion is one of its most important building blocks. Supporting more than 850 000 companies and 5 million jobs, it accounts for 3 % of the EU's GDP. Furthermore, Europe's high-end products, account for 10 % of total EU exports and provide one million direct jobs. Bolstering long-term competitiveness of the fashion and high-end industries is important for overall economic recovery in Europe and this is why this sector has been very high on the agenda of European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

Tonight and tomorrow, the Vice President will be meeting with high-level representatives of the fashion and high-end industries in Paris to talk about the main challenges that this industry is currently facing and ways to overcome them. The main topics will be the importance of strengthening EU industrial policy; the protection of intellectual property rights and the fight against counterfeit products; and ways to improve access to finance for fashion SMEs. More importantly, the meetings will prepare the groundwork for the conference in London on December 3rd, where an action plan to kick-start these sectors will be adopted.

Tackling the main obstacles to growth

One of the main topics on the agenda in Paris will be recent developments in industrial policy and the upcoming European Council debate in Feb 2014. As VP Tajani said on several occasions, the Summit in February 2014 will be a historic opportunity to put industry and industrial policy at the heart of the European growth strategy. And the European fashion and high-end industries – which are recognised world-wide for the innovativeness, creativity and high quality of their products – must be an important part of that strategy.

Other topics of discussion will include the most important problems that the fashion and high-end industries currently face:

1) Support for research, innovation and creativity

The European fashion industry cannot compete with the countries that have low labour costs on price level alone. In order to remain competitive, it has to focus on market niches as well as higher added-value products and services. Therefore, creativity, research and innovation can make a real difference.

The EU financial programmes for the period of 2014-2020, such as COSME and Horizon 2020, will provide some support. One example is the WORTH Project, which aims to increase the creative content in manufacturing processes and bridge the gap between design and manufacturing; as well as support the integration of ICT and new technologies into the sector.

2) Fighting counterfeiting

The efforts European fashion and high-end companies make in creativity and innovation can be hampered by illegal activities, such as intellectual property rights infringements.

The global market of counterfeit goods is worth more than €200 billion, and according to some estimates it could double by 2015. Fashion and high-end products account for the largest share of all counterfeit goods: in terms of value they comprised over 50% of detentions registered by European customs in 2012. This is a real challenge which must be tackled on the EU level and adequate legislation is crucial. For example, in March 2013, the Commission adopted a proposal to modernise the trade mark system to make registration cheaper and faster for companies (IP/13/287).

3) Access to finance for SMEs

In the current economic situation, access to finance, which is a key factor for the start-up, development and growth of businesses in the fashion industry, remains a major difficulty. The great majority of fashion companies are SMEs. Having mostly intangible assets and often being unable to provide guarantees, fashion companies face difficulties in obtaining external funding. New financing programs for SMEs such as COSME might help (MEMO/13/909), but further actions to improve access to finance are needed.

The main participants of the Paris meetings

The high-level meeting in Paris will be split into two sessions. On the evening of November 6th, VP Tajani will meet main trade associations representing the fashion industry, including Union Française des Industries de l’Habillement, Union des Industries Textiles, Fédération Française de la Chaussure, Union des Fabricants and Institut Français de la Mode.

On November 7th, he will meet Comité Colbert, a trade association which consists of the most prestigious French luxury brands.

Background information: The countdown to London

Several high-level fashion meetings this year – in Madrid, Milan and this week in Paris – were all in preparation for the conference in London which will take place on December 3rd. The goal of the London conference will be to endorse an action plan for fashion and high-end industries to help them flourish and continue contributing to EU growth and employment. The action plan will be the follow-up of the two Staff Working Documents that the Commission published in September 2012: one on the fashion industry and another one on the high-end industry.

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