The growth of China's textile industry, protectionism and a new world economic order were among topics discussed by top textile industry executives at the recent International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) world conference. 

More than 300 delegates gathered in Shanghai for the three-day event under the theme of "Structural Adjustments in the World Textile Industry".

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Professor Edmund Phelps of Columbia University, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics, delivered the keynote addresses.

"The close relationship between Europe and China is of utmost importance to world peace," Mr Schroeder said.

He went on to say the EU must increase its strategic partnership with China, and that it will also benefit from China's growth.

"Germany had seen its textile industry moving away, now it is going for design and innovation. We have to have other solutions," he said. 

And while total collapse of global financial markets has been avoided, the next looming danger, he believes, is protectionism.

"The EU, US and Asia most work towards a free market but with regulation. Protectionism does not help. Transparency and regulation is the way out", he added.  

"What sort of economy are we going to have in the future? It will be global and China", said Professor Phelps in his address titled "Post crisis Global Economy & China industrialisation."

The new economic order will see slow growth in the US and EU contrasted by rapid growth in Asia.

At present China's indigenous innovation is not fully developed, Professor Phelps said, with most of its technologies transferred from other countries.

But China will gradually become more innovative, and as this happens, textiles will be crowded out. Which means China's textile and apparel industry is unlikely to remain a world leader in the future.

ITMF president Halit Narin took a more philosophical approach. "We are all human beings; let us respect each other.

"We cannot live without textiles, but it is not the only thing. Manufacturers should also respect the social life of their workers." 

"The global economic crisis was a shock and a rude awakening", said Du Yuzhou, president of CNTAC (China National Textile & Apparel Council).

Many factories closed and jobs were lost, and around 25% of China's textile enterprises saw their profits fall.

But China is the biggest producer of textiles in the world, he proclaimed, although changes [in innovation and upgrading quality, clean production, and international cooperation] must take place for the industry to grow further.

"Let us cooperate and prosper", he beckoned the audience.