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Reform is only way for textiles industry to compete with China, say EU Commissioners

 

 

The main challenges facing the textiles industry are connected to research; innovation and workers' skills and qualifications, said Günter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, speaking at a meeting of the Textiles High Level Group (THLG) on 15 June.

Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for Science and Research, called on the European textiles sector to restructure and become more competitive following the abolition of textile quotas on 1 January 2005. In return, he added, the Commission will continue to support, in part through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the research initiatives of the sector, particularly the Technology Platform.

'I believe that the EU textile industry can thrive if it continues to invest in new production processes and materials, in innovative design and manufacturing systems and in training and skills,' said Mr Potocnik. 'To achieve such a transformation, investment is needed in technological innovation that would assist industry in its transition from a resource intensive to a knowledge intensive industry.'

A recent deal between Beijing and Brussels has curbed a surge in Chinese textile imports into Europe, with China agreeing to limit the growth of ten Chinese textile imports to the EU to between 8.5 to12.5 per cent until the end of 2007.

'The industry should now use this additional time to focus on and invest in the future and move up the value chain through innovation, restructuring, research and investment in skills,' said Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

At the meeting, the Textiles High Level Group identified a number of objectives to achieve these goals. In terms of innovation, the new strategic research objective on 'ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] for networked businesses' will be promoted, as will be the collaboration schemes with the Innovation Relay Centres and the National Patent and Trademark Offices. In terms of research, the focus will be on technical textiles with high added value content, to develop new markets in construction, protective clothing and medical uses. For education and training, actions under the Leonardo da Vinci programme to develop common European qualification standards will be intensified.

As Mr Potocnik explained, the transformation and modernisation of the industry has already started. In terms of integrating research efforts at European level, for example, a large number of projects were submitted under FP6 and those selected for funding are receiving a total of 41 million euro. The Commission is presently supporting efforts to develop breakthrough technologies to improve the productivity of the apparel manufacturing; solutions in cutting and sewing systems; eco-efficient processes and novel processes such as the combination of nanotechnology and plasma surface engineering for new generation textiles; and technologically-advanced textiles with applications in medical, automotive, aviation and aerospace industries.

In terms of FP7, Mr Potocnik explained that 'the strong industry involvement in platforms is particularly important for identifying the research priorities for collaborative research covered by theme four (nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies) of the Seventh Framework Programme, aimed at developing high added value products and services.'

Concluding the meeting, Commissioners Verheugen and Potocnik re-iterated their decision to jointly support the industry.

'Despite the current challenges to the textile and clothing sector caused by the recent major increase in imports from China, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the wider picture. Let us continue together to implement our industrial strategy of focusing on and improving the competitive strengths of the European textile and clothing sector,' concluded Mr Verheugen.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities


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