Jun 15, 2016
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Euratex says textiles a strategic sector in Europe

Jun 15, 2016

On its 20th anniversary, Euratex - the European Apparel and Textile Confederation, which is the political voice of the textile and clothing industry in Europe, hosted its international conference ‘Best in Partnerships’ devoted to inter-sectoral partnerships to boost European manufacturing.

European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elzbieta Bienkowska in her key note address said, “The textile and fashion industry is a strategic sector in the EU and it is really performing well. The European Commission is undertaking a number of actions to meet three main challenges of the sector: innovation, international competition and skills shortage.”

The Commissioner underlined that the European institutions are expecting full engagement of industry, because knowledge about the companies' needs should drive the development of new policies and programmes.

Euratex’s President Serge Piolat emphasized that textile and fashion sector is appreciating the European Commission’s willingness to build a dialogue with the industry, the organization said in a press release.

Euratex proposed a concrete action plan to the European Commission to strengthen internationalisation of the SMEs, assure fair conditions for the European companies through stricter market surveillance, provide better access for SMEs to EU research funds and boost innovation investments at regional level through RegioTex initiative. “We are strongly committed to show meaningful results and we have equally high expectations of concrete actions from the policy-makers,” said Piolat.

The textile and fashion industry invited other sectors to identify common challenges and discuss new areas of cooperation. The conference was organised in a new format of Industrial Dialogues when two at a time representatives of different sectors had a free discussion between them and with the audience. The topics addressed were circular economy, creative industries, education and skills and international trade.

Ietje Klaver, sales director at Ecoalf, the Spanish sustainable fashion brand making all its products with recycled materials, discussed the challenges of the circular economy with Isabelle Spiegel, a director in charge of Environmental Business Line in Arcadis – a global design, engineering and management consultancy. The circular economy is a concept of closing the loop of product lifecycles which is beneficial for the environment and profitable for companies. Both speakers agreed that to build circular economy in Europe, silos between different sectors should be broken. With companies’ creativity and innovation, the waste of one industry can become the raw material for the other.

Europe is a number one destination for millions of tourists every year. The European identity is attracting visitors and making them buy goods ‘made in Europe’. The quality and style are at the heart of European products. Can players within the tourism industry and local manufacturers join forces in the common interest? Sophie Blondel, a General Manager of Sofitel Brussels Le Louise and the president of Brussels Hotel Association, discussed it with Adam Hainsworth, a Director at AW Hainsworth & Sons LTD,UK-based company producing exquisite woolen cloth and high performing textiles. Local production can attract more visitors in the regions of Europe, but more cooperation between different sectors and regions is needed–concluded the speakers.

Armando Branchini, a Vice-Chairman of Fondazione Altagamma, the Foundation representing Italian Luxury Companies and Brands, and Felix Rohn, apprenticeships and vocational education and training expert from DG Employment of the European Commission, discussed the education and skills challenges in Europe. Nearly 600.000 job openings are anticipated in the textile and fashion sector in the EU-28 up to 2025. With the currently high unemployment rate in Europe, it is however difficult to attract skilled employees to fill these vacancies. Thus, it was announced that the European Commission chose textiles and clothing to be included in its Blue Print Strategy which will propose new solutions for companies to find skilled employees.

The conference also discussed international trade. Trade patterns are changing in the world – a shift from global to regional and bilateral trade agreements is observed. Companies are changing their trade models and re-orientate to increase exports. This was the topic of discussion between Jean-Paul Depraetere, a Managing Director of Escolys Textiles – Belgian leading producer of Jacquard interior fabrics, and Pierre Conrath who leads the Sustainability and Public Affairs activities of EDANA, the international association serving the nonwovens. The speakers concluded that trading internationally is still a challenge for small companies, so cooperation with large, more experienced partners may facilitate their exports.

Textile and fashion companies are already working hand-in-hand with the other industries, service providers and research centres. The opportunities for making profitable partnerships are not exhausted which was confirmed by the participants of Euratex’s Industrial Dialogues.

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