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EU Officials Warn Textile Industry

October 28, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ With textile quotas to disappear worldwide at the end of 2004, European Union officials warned on Tuesday that steps must be taken now to support an industry that is already shrinking and shedding jobs in Europe.

Unable to compete on cost with countries like China, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said Europe must find ways to promote its own ``comparative advantage,″ which he described as ``added value in European design and quality.

``Traditionally we’ve held this high ground in the market,″ he said. ``We’re working on trying to set that in a more permanent way.″

Proposals being considered at the EU level range from encouraging research into new materials to fighting counterfeiting to a ``Made in Europe″ label for clothing and textiles manufactured in the EU.

The EU was the world’s largest exporter of textiles last year, at euro43.8 billion ($56.5 billion), and the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, according to EU figures. But it still ran a trade deficit of euro27.8 billion ($32.5 billion) in the sector.

Textile imports to the EU have risen 60 percent since 1995, while exports grew only 50 percent, Lamy said. Jobs have been steadily falling, by more than 8 percent last year, along with production levels.

``There’s no doubt that in terms of numbers of jobs, it’s an erosion,″ Lamy said. ``And this will not change with the elimination of quotas. The whole sort of game is to climb up the added-value ladder.″

Lamy said the elimination of quotas would eventually bring benefits to Europe, increasing choice and keeping prices down for consumers, and opening the U.S. and Asian markets wider to European goods.

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