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Textiles and clothing

Regulatory and industrial policy dialogues

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The end of the textile quota regime was a major step towards overall trade liberalisation. Much of the European Union (EU) industry have make the necessary adjustments, resulting in significant productivity gains and a gradual concentration of production on high value added content. These actions have allowed the EU Textile and Clothing (T&C) sector to remain a leading player on the global market, especially in the medium-high range of textile, clothing and footwear products.

The task of doing away with trade barriers is still far from complete. However, many countries maintain very significant non-tariff barriers as well as complicating and harmful internal legislations. There is a need for convergence in market legislations and standards with the view to develop level playing field in and transparency in international trade.

In the Commission's first Communication of 29 October 2003, it stated that "...the role of public authorities is and will remain the establishment of favourable framework conditions in which T&C, like other sectors, can develop and enjoy the opportunity to compete, domestically and internationally, on the basis of equity." In addition, the Commission has the "objective of identifying measures or lines of action that can improve the competitive position of the sector."

Beyond specific trade negotiations, the Commission also maintains close relations with its main economic partners in the sector. It has established regulatory and industrial policy dialogues with several major third countries, with the aim of increasing transparency on technical trade barriers, breaking down them through regulatory convergence or even harmonization. This could be translated in reducing costs for European textile businesses by improving the administrative environment and investment conditions for EU companies operating in those countries.

In particular dialogues in this area have been initiated with China, Russia, Mediterranean countries and recently with Brazil.

DG Enterprise and Industry also actively pursues important work in various multilateral international bodies, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and World Trade Organization (WTO) - Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Co-operation with a number of third countries also takes place via the Competitiveness and Innovation Program (CIP).

Brazil

Brazil is considered by EU economic operators as a key partner in international trade with important market potential. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country increased regularly in recent years and is expected to grow substantially in the future.

Relations with Brazil have been politically upgrades through the establishment of a strategic partnership, at the first EU-Brazil Summit in Lisbon, in July 2007. The next step was the implementation of the specific Joint Action Plan [78 KB] français that was signed during the EU-Brazil Summit on 22 December 2008. Within the context of this Action Plan three pilot groups of regulatory and industrial dialogues were created for the sectors textile/clothing, forest based industries and steel and metals industry.

The objectives of the dialogue in the textile sector will be:

  • achieve better understanding of the existing regulatory framework on both sides with respect to technical regulations, conformity assessments and standards;
  • explore the feasibility of promoting regulatory convergence and cooperation at WTO level;
  • enhance transparency in regulatory activity via the exchange of information on development and implementation of regulations on both sides;
  • discussion on the implementation of internal regulations related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), state aids, role of public administrations;
  • encourage contacts between business communities from both sides and promote cooperation initiatives taken in the mutual interest (e.g. joint ventures).

A total of €61mn is earmarked for Brazil in the Brazil Country Strategy paper 2007-2013 [356 KB] Deutschfrançais with the two focal areas: enhance bilateral relations [through sectoral dialogues, scholarship programmes and European Studies Institute] and environment.

China

China is one of the EU main trading partners in textile and clothing products. Nowadays, 39% of all EU imports of clothing products, in value, are originating in China. Indeed, China is responsible for the biggest part of the EU trade deficit in textile/clothing which amounts to € 43 billion. On the other hand, with a growing number of wealthy consumers, China could represent a major opportunity for EU textile and clothing exports provided that market access conditions would become more favourable.

A number of formal Industrial and Regulatory Dialogues have been established between the Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission and Chinese Ministries, notably with the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Chinese Administration for Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

The objective of the Working Group Textile under the Industrial Policy Dialogue with NDRC is to promote transparency and mutual understanding of the EU and Chinese textile and clothing industries and to discuss and exchange information and good practices in particular on the following issues:

  • Enterprise policy - exchange of views on current and forthcoming policies, legislation and implementation strategies.
  • Competitiveness issues - strengthening industry competitiveness on both sides: research and innovation, training, product standards, market access, establishment of fair and competitive environment.
  • Sustainable Development - promote exchanges on environmental technologies and corporate social responsibility practices in the textile and clothing sector.

The Dialogue has been established in 2004 and the meetings are annual, taking place alternatively in Beijing and Brussels. Industry representatives from both sides attend the meetings

The Regulatory Dialogue with AQSIQ on Textiles aims at an exchange of views on respective legislation and certification procedures and to contribute to the establishment of smooth and sustainable trade relations between EU and China.

The Dialogue has been established in 2003 and the meetings are annual, taking place alternatively in Beijing and Brussels. Industry representatives from both sides attend the meetings.

Extensive exchange of information on customs procedures, certification procedures and legislation of relevance for textile and clothing products has taken place. Furthermore, and in view of increasing mutual understanding and facilitating trade flows, an exchange of information and an in-depth study on technical standards applied to textiles and clothing products has taken place. An exchange of information on textile floor covering standards, involving industry associations from both sides has also been organised.

Russia

Russia is considered a key trade partner for the EU in C&F. EU exports increased sharply during the last years. Russia accounts for 11.9% of EU textile and clothing exports.

The EU and Russia concluded a bilateral agreement on textiles in 2000 which removed quotas between the two sides. The EU and Russia concluded their bilateral market access deal in the context of Russia's WTO accession, which inter alia contains reductions in the maximum tariff levels Russia can apply once it is a WTO member.

On 10 May 2005 at the EU-Russia Summit it was agreed a new framework for the EU-Russia relations in particular the creation of the Common Economic Space (CES) which includes among others closer cooperation and dialogue on regulatory, industrial and enterprise matters.

Although a new agreement is being negotiated with Russia to replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), this will, in part, be based on the Common Spaces. In the meantime the CES Roadmap pdf - 71 KB [71 KB] is being implemented, mainly through a series of EU-Russia dialogues.

So far the main focus of the textile/clothing sub-group was the exchange of information and share and comment draft legislative texts between the two parties on problems related to national legislations in areas of conformity assessment and standards for textile and clothing products. They have been launched common projects with the collaboration of stakeholders from both sides, in areas such as testing methods and standards in the carpet industry. TAIEX initiative could finance specific activities.

In the Regulatory Dialogue, the Russian side has frequently expressed its wish to move its system of technical regulations and standards closer to the EU system, although progress is slow. In this context, the Russian Government has already taken the initiative to adapt national standards to international ones.

Progress reports including textiles:

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