On 5 June 2014, more than 140 participants from the industry, research, European institutions and international organisations came to Brussels to join the international textile and clothing conference ´Free Trade and International Agreements´. The 15 distinguished speakers coming from different countries and institutions made a valuable contribution to the discussion on the way textile and clothing markets have changed in the last 20 years and on the impact of the numerous Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed across the world.
The EURATEX President Alberto Paccanelli in his welcoming address underlined the importance of establishing a constant dialogue between the stakeholders all over the world. He concluded by stressing that ´Euratex seeks to secure fair trade which benefits our textile & clothing companies. You do know how difficult it is to explain to an entrepreneur - regardless of his geographical location - in particular when running an SME, struggling with administrative paperwork, lost in the labyrinth of incomprehensible rules of origin and certification procedures, how important it is for his business to benefit from well-shaped FTAs. But you also know that this entrepreneur will have long-term benefits. That is why it is of utmost interest to listen to what our guest speakers have to say today on this issue.´
The first session of the conference was devoted to the overview of the current textile and clothing trade flows in the world. Gildas Minvielle (Institut Francais de la Mode) underlined that world trends confirm that European companies managed to maintain their overall position by changing competitiveness paradigm and by favouring a competitiveness based on products with high added-value and non-price competitiveness content. Nevertheless, to maintain such model it is also important to strengthen the European industrial policy that should also benefit the textile and clothing.
Lauro Panella from the Cabinet of Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, called upon an innovative approach for industry in order to compete with high added-value products. He emphasised the ´change of vision´ the European institutions went through when adopting in 2012 a Communication on Creative industries that was translated, end of last year, into a plan for enhancing the competitiveness in Fashion and High-end industries. Mrs. Signe Ratso, Director of Trade Strategy and Analysis and Market Access from the European Commission, reviewed the various trade policy tools (multilateral negotiations, FTAs, Market Access strategy and Trade Defence Instruments) available for the European Commission for improving the worldwide market access of European textile and clothing exports. She stressed also the importance of creating true partnership with industrial sectors to maximise the benefits of the EU Commission market access strategy.
The following conference session was devoted to the benefits generated by the currently enforced FTAs. Introducing the session, Mr. Francesco Marchi, Director General of EURATEX underlined that the EU´s FTAs currently in place absorb more than 44 per cent of the 42,2 billion of textile and clothing products exported world-wide (2013). In addition he assured that the on-going transfer of export flows towards more dynamic markets could be bolstered by the signature of the FTAs presently in negotiation provided those will be reciprocal and balanced for this industry.
BH Kim, International Cooperation & trade team director from the Korean Federation of Textile Industries (KOFOTI), provided arguments to demonstrate the success of the EU-Korea FTA enforced since July 2012. According to him, the utilisation rate of the agreement is high and the EU companies utilise this agreement to increase their exports prices while South Korean exporters exploit it to expand their presence on the EU markets. Mr.