European Union (EU) clothing and textile federation Euratex has decided to back the launch of free trade negotiations between the EU and Japan, concluding that an agreement would favour Europe's textile and clothing sector.

Luisa Santos, head of international trade at Euratex, told just-style that the EU exported EUR1.7bn in clothing and textiles to Japan in 2011, with clothing accounting for EUR1bn.

And with EU having "an overall positive trade balance in textile and clothing meaning we export more to Japan more than importing from Japan," Santos told just-style an agreement will have a "positive impact" on the EU industry.

If successful, a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan "could deliver around 0.8% of GDP growth for the EU and more than 400,000 jobs," predicted EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht.

He said EU exports to Japan "could increase by 32.7%, while Japanese exports to the EU would increase by 23.5%" following a successful deal.

Ralph Kamphöner, director international trade and wholesale for EuroCommerce, which represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe, told just-style he was "pleased the process for negotiations have started," and they should benefit all trade, including garments.

However the process may not be easy, especially as regards non-tariff barriers such as licensing, labelling and consumer preferences for local products. "Japan may sound open in theory but not so in practice," warned Kamphöner.