The EU textile and clothing industry is a leader in world markets. EU exports to the rest of the world represent more than 30% of the world market while the EU Single Market is also one of the most important in terms of size, quality and design. The European Commission works to ensure a level-playing field in international trade. It does this at multilateral level through the application of World Trade Organization agreements, at bilateral level through negotiations on Free Trade Agreements, and via dialogues such the Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on the textile and clothing industry, and bilateral dialogues with Colombia and China.
The leading world role of the EU textile and clothing sector is attributed to its high-end specialisation, its flexibility, the continuous adaptation of its structure to the market, and the development of products that address new needs (such as technical textiles for industrial uses).
Because of this, and despite a negative trade balance, the sector increased its exports by 13% in the past few years, while imports have increased by 4%.
The textile and clothing industry is a very global industry, with constantly increasing trade flows all over the world. The increasing importance of markets in emerging economies and the development of new uses and product applications in areas such as aerospace, medicine, construction and architecture, automobile, transport and personal protection, makes the need for better access to non-EU markets more important than ever.
This is why the sector is important when it comes to bilateral discussions currently being held to develop Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with countries such the United States (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), Japan and Vietnam. The EU recently signed FTAs with Canada, South Korea, Ukraine and Moldova.
Tariff barriers, technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures are all obstacles to the development of trade.
The Commission follows the application of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade by non-EU countries and fights for the removal of unnecessary technical obstacles in non-EU countries within the context of the WTO.
In parallel to the multilateral framework, the Commission carries out bilateral dialogues on industrial policy and related regulatory issues with non-EU countries in order to facilitate industrial relations and trade improvement.
These dialogues are performed within a horizontal framework in which the textile and clothing industry plays an important part.
The Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on the textile and clothing industry is a particularly important multilateral dialogue. This region has a strategic role as it enables the entire production chain to be kept at geographical proximity. One-third of EU exports of textiles go to the pan-Euro-Mediterranean area.