The Worst Of Times Are Over
The European textiles industry may have finally been able to shrug off the sluggishness that had been holding it back since the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement. Jozef De Coster spoke to industry leaders and experts during the recent ETP conference in Brussels, and found that the textiles industry there is now in an upbeat mood, and ready to take the lead in many segments.
The time of fear and desperation in the European textiles industry is over. At least, that’s what Francesco Marchi, director-general of the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex), believes. The mood in the industry is upbeat and palpable.
The reasons for this swing were explained by manufacturers and researchers at the latest ETP conference in Brussels (October 12-13). ETP is the European Technology Platform for the future of textiles and clothing. European manufacturers are confident that their strengths in high-tech production, advanced materials, digitalisation and sustainability lend them an edge.
The optimism in the European textiles sector is not that of blind believers. The leaders and members of Euratex and ETP know very well that the sector has to address several big challenges, like its exaggerated dependency on imported (mainly Asian) fibres and dyestuffs, and its image as a “sunset industry” that makes it difficult to attract ambitious workers, students and researchers.
However, in spite of all challenges and threats, Lutz Walter, secretary-general of ETP, thinks that the next 10 years will see the re-emergence of European textiles leadership. He is confident that during the next decade European companies will successfully conquer global market niches
The present position of the European manufacturing industry is very different from that at the end of 2004 (end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement), when in the aftermath of the liberalisation of global textiles markets, this industry was characterised by off-shoring of volume textiles and clothing production, shrinkage and restructuring.