Textiles and clothing after 2005
The Communication "Textiles and clothing after 2005 - recommendations of the High Level Group for textiles and clothing" adopted by the Commission on 13 October 2004 responds to the request of the Competitiveness Council to follow up the Communication of 2003 on the future of the textiles and clothing sector in the enlarged European Union (COM(2003) 649 final) and to report on the work of the High Level Group for textiles and clothing. The Communication addresses the areas covered by the Group's recommendations.
The Communication is accompanied by the Commission Staff Working Document (Commission Staff Working Document (SEC(2004)1240) [255 KB] [254 KB] which describes in detail a set of actions which the Commission Services intend to take. A substantial part of this document is devoted to issues crucial for improving the competitiveness of the textiles and clothing sector, notably research, technology and innovation, education, employment and training measures, external trade policy measures and other competitiveness-related issues such as the protection of intellectual property rights.
In the area of research and innovation, opportunities for co-funding of research into technical textiles have been announced, and recently proposed research measures will work towards a technology breakthrough for clothing manufacture as well as development of eco-efficient processes, high added value products and associated markets with growth potential for the textile industry. Furthermore, in co-operation with the Commission, the sector is considering setting up a European Technology Platform.
As far as employment, education and vocational training is concerned, at EU-level, the Leonardo da Vinci programme and the European Social Fund provide the framework for funding sectoral projects with European added value as well as innovative actions in the area of employment and adaptation to industrial change.
In the area of trade policy, the Commission proposes to improve access to third country markets and to eliminate non-tariff barriers within the framework of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). Furthermore, it aims to rapidly complete the Euro-Mediterranean zone, focus Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) benefits on the countries in most need, and monitor very closely the development of exports from the main third country suppliers, in particular from China.
Regarding support to textiles and clothing regions, the Commission believes that the participation of the textile and clothing sector in multisectoral programme provides adequate and efficient support. This allows for diversification of production between various sectors and ultimately better serves the economic situation of the regions in question. Nevertheless, appropriate programmes to mitigate the socio-economic impact on those regions where the sector is concentrated need to be in place. In this context, the Commission has adopted a proposal that Member States should reserve an amount of 1% of the Structural Fund annual contribution for the "Convergence" objective and 3% of the Structural Fund annual contribution for the "Regional competitiveness and employment" objective to cover unforeseen local or sectoral crises linked to economic and social restructuring.
With respect to the protection of intellectual property rights, the Commission acknowledges the importance of improving the protection of rights and their enforcement in third countries, and to raise right holders' awareness of counterfeiting and the risks involved. The Commission is examining proposals for the dissemination of relevant information amongst the industry stakeholders.
Some areas, such as access to finance, non-technological innovation and industrial-co-operation, in particular with the Mediterranean partners, need to be further explored and the Commission recommends that the High Level Group for textiles and clothing should resume its work.
Furthermore, the Commission will soon be launching a dialogue with Mediterranean countries with a view to enhancing co-operation in the textiles and clothing sector and to keeping the production chain at geographic proximity to the EU.
This Communication, together with the Communication of 2003, effectively illustrates the Commission's application of the horizontal principles of EU industrial policy, while taking into account the needs of an individual sector.