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The new EU Industrial Strategy: how do we get from principles to practice?

Euratex welcomes the proposed new EU industrial strategy but wonders how the proposed principles will be put into practice; reality checks and close monitoring of the implementation of the strategy will be essential to make a positive and sustainable impact.

The European textiles and apparel industry, worth nearly €180 bln and including 171,000 companies, is an essential pillar of the European industry. It is a very globalised industry with extensive value chains across different continents. Over the last 10 years, real changes have been made to innovate and increase sustainability of its products, starting from traditional clothing to smart and medical textiles, industrial applications in the automotive and aerospace industry, to protective wear and high-end fashion.

Against this background, Euratex welcomes the launch of a new comprehensive EU industrial strategy. It is high time for Europe to embrace its industry again, as a source of welfare, innovation and employment. The proposed strategy is rightfully putting emphasis on economic sovereignty, without falling into the trap of protectionism.

The strategy should include some important elements, essential for its success:

• Any proposed measure must be assessed in a global context, i.e. European companies cannot be subject to new rules, standards or regulations unless all players do play with the same rules. Measures to ensure a level playing field must be realistic and effective.

• Innovation into a more sustainable industry has an important cost, and the end consumer is not always willing to pick up that cost. This may jeopardize the financial sustainability of our industry, especially for smaller companies. Accompanying measures should be taken to alleviate the burden of green investments, especially for SMEs.

• Labour force shortage is an important barrier to the development of our industry. In 2018, 34% of the Textile and Clothing workforce was over the age of 50 (a steep increase from the 22% just 10 years ago). It is therefore urgent to make a common effort to both upskill and reskill the current workforce and to attract young talent.

While the principles mentioned in the strategy are sound, effective implementation of such principles into practical measures will be critical. Too often in the past, the EU has presented ambitious plans, but failed to deliver on their implementation, either by lack of resources or political will from member states. Euratex therefore calls for a strict “governance” of this new strategy, introducing measurable targets, which can be monitored by relevant stakeholders. “We should be vigilant that proposed measures are realistic and effective, and actually support industrial competitiveness, rather than adding a regulatory or financial burden”, commented Director General Dirk Vantyghem on the proposed strategy.

Euratex stands ready to contribute to a positive and effective implementation of the strategy, making sure the European economy can regain its competitiveness, create jobs and welfare.

As the voice of the European textile and clothing industry, Euratex works to achieve a favourable environment within the European Union for design, development, manufacture and marketing of textile and clothing products.

The EU textile and clothing industry, with over € 50 billion of exports, is a global player successfully commercializing high added value products on growing markets around the world.

Working together with EU institutions and other European and international stakeholders, Euratex focuses on clear priorities: an ambitious industrial policy, effective research, innovation and skills development, free and fair trade, and sustainable supply chains.

 
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