The European Union (EU) should speed up the recovery of the textile sector by setting the conditions for future competitiveness and resiliency, the bloc’s textile industry body has said.

On the occasion of EU Industry Days, Europe’s flagship annual event on industry, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex) says the textile and clothing industry was hardest hit by the pandemic in 2020.

It is, therefore, asking the European Commission and member states to “set the right conditions for the competitiveness and resilience of its industrial base, in particular the textile and clothing industry.”

“The textile and clothing industry is a pillar of Europe with its savoir-faire and excellence, counting 160,000 companies (mainly SMEs), employing 1,500,000 people, generating EUR162bn,” it adds. “38% of such industry’s turnover is sold on global markets, whereby SMEs cover more than 50% of those global sales.”

If the European Commission and member states do not want to lose such asset, Euratex suggests they take a series of measures:

  • Europe should put in place effective market surveillance, avoid unfair competition, and guarantee a level playing field. The continent has the most stringent social and environmental standards, and it should protect the quality of its products. We hear too often that products made in other countries do not attain these standards, such is the case of non-compliant face masks, and it is time to act upon it, the body says.
  • Europe should support the transition towards a more sustainable and digital industry through specific funds and programmes. Indeed, SMEs, due to their size and capacities, do not have the power to innovate their products and processes in the short-term. Moreover, the sector should reduce future risks by diversifying its supply chains and promoting nearby production. Europe can again play a fundamental role in the development of a new trade policy.
  • Europe should have a market-proof approach when moving towards sustainability and a circular economy. The green transition should carefully balance the cost of this transition process and the long-term benefits. The green and digital transition is challenged by the economic crisis. Business and citizens may rapidly loose interest if the transition does not provide any short/mid-term benefit.
  • Europe should help education systems and institutes to develop comprehensive and leading-edge T&C knowledge. It can do so through LongLife Learning, Erasmus + and the Pact for Skills Initiative. Our industries suffer from an aging workforce and it is fundamental to reskill/upskill it. Most importantly, the sector should attract young generation to renew itself and drive the change.
  • Europe should have a coherent approach when legislating in different areas. All policies, from the Green Deal to the Sustainable Chemicals strategy, from the EU Trade strategy to the EU Industrial one, should be consistent and not hamper industry. If not, consequences will be fatal, Euratex says.

“The forthcoming European Strategy for Textiles represents a terrific opportunity for industry and policymakers to develop a forward-looking vision,” says Dirk Vantyghem, Euratex director-general. “If Europe misses this chance, it risks losing one of the essential ecosystems. Too many sectors will be affected by such loss, as textiles are everywhere, from a car to the street we walk on.”

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The European Strategy for Textiles, which sought feedback up to 2 February, aims to help the EU shift to a climate-neutral, circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy-efficient.

It specifically wants to ensure the textile industry recovers from the Covid-19 crisis in a sustainable way by: making it more competitive; applying circular economy principles to production, products, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials; and directing investment, research and innovation.

The European Commission is looking to adopt the strategy by the third quarter of 2021.