In 2019 the EU exported €61 billion of textile and clothing and imported €109 billion. The EU imported over €80 billion of clothes, mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey. The European Commission works to ensure a level playing field in international trade. It does this at multilateral level by applying World Trade Organization agreements and at bilateral level through Free Trade Agreements.
The leading role of the EU textile and clothing sector is attributed to design, creativity and strong brand names, especially in the high-end industries. The textile and clothing industry is global, with constantly increasing trade flows. The need for better market access increases as their importance grows in emerging markets along with new product applications and uses in aerospace, healthcare, construction, automotive and personal protection.
EU rules of origin in the textile sector reflect the numerous steps in production processes from fibres to yarns, fabrics and confectioned products. The rules are descriptive and based on processes. Operators have the choice between different processes. The processes aim to ensure the value-added of operations and synergies with our trading partners. As a basic principle, we apply the ‘double transformation rule’.
Free Trade Agreements have been beneficial for the sector. In general, the duties on textile and clothing are higher than for other sectors. EU duties are 4-5% for yarns, 8% for fabrics and 12% for clothes. Hence, the reduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers can significantly help to reduce costs for exporters.
The textile ecosystem faces strong international competition. Given the high volume of imported products and to level the playing field, it is important to ensure market surveillance and eliminate market access barriers in third countries. The Commission follows the application of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and negotiates the removal of technical obstacles within the context of the WTO.