Mirjam Matti Gähwiler — 16.11.2021

The textiles industry has an international orientation. As an economic area, the EU is of the utmost importance. To ensure that Switzerland’s textiles industry has access to discussions and decisions at the European level, Swiss Textiles has for many years been a member of Euratex - the European organisation representing the interests of companies in the clothing and textiles sectors.

Last week, around 300 representatives of the European members exchanged ideas and launched new initiatives at the 2021 Euratex Convention. In this interview, Nina Bachmann and Jasmin Schmid explain why networking in Brussels is so important, which topics were on the agenda and what impacts this year’s Euratex Convention is expected to have on the industry.

The ninth Euratex Convention was held in Antwerp on 8 and 9 November under the heading, “New paradigm for the European textiles and clothing companies”. What were the main topics under discussion?

Nina Bachmann: The key issue that was addressed in all presentations was sustainability, and in particular the concept of the circular economy. Because the EU is to make it compulsory for companies to take back textiles, it will be necessary to find suitable solutions. Here, it appears that everyone will have to rely on know-how transfer. Other key issues were the forwarding of data via the supply chain and the digitalisation of processes, which of course have a direct connection with the circular economy.

So does this mean we’re all sitting in the same boat, or are there issues that are specific to regions?

Jasmin Schmid: This is context-related. With respect to customs clearance, Switzerland’s textiles and clothing sector often faces difficulties that many EU companies are not confronted with, or which only concern those EU companies that trade with Switzerland. The reason for this is that Switzerland is strongly embedded in the European textiles supply chain. While there are no longer any tariff barriers within the EU, when goods cross the border from the EU into Switzerland (and vice versa) they are always subject to customs clearance. By contrast, with respect to efforts to eliminate trade barriers in markets outside the EU (e.g. Saudi Arabia), both sides share the same concerns and priorities.

Nina Bachmann: As far as topics relating to sustainability are concerned, yes – we’re all sitting in the same boat. Here, harmonisation with the EU beyond borders is clearly expedient, and fortunately both sides share this view.

Jasmin Schmid

Jasmin Schmid

Swiss Textiles
Leiterin Wirtschaft und Statistik

"For us, cooperation with Euratex has resulted in privileged access to the EU Commission, even though we are non-members of the EU."

Nina Bachmann

Nina Bachmann

Swiss Textiles
Sustainability, Member of the management board

"With the introduction of the “Green Deal”, there is an enormous amount of activity in the EU regarding environment and supply chain policy. Here, Euratex helps us maintain an overview and filter out those aspects that are of importance for our industry."

How often are you in contact with the members of Euratex?

Jasmin Schmid: We are frequently in contact with its members. Exchanges by e-mail on specific topics take place at least every two weeks. Physical or virtual meetings are held at various levels (executive board, management, committees, work groups) at least twice a year. Swiss Textiles also organises exchanges with some members of Euratex every six weeks or so, in particular with the federations representing companies in the textiles and clothing sectors in northern Europe. They share our views and interests in almost every area, and also support us in matters relating specifically to Switzerland.

What are the specific benefits of our cooperation with Euratex?

Nina Bachmann: For example, we were able to submit the concerns of our members in the field of chemicals policy directly to the EU Commission via Euratex. The EU Commission noted these concerns, but how it will respond to them remains to be seen, of course. In both EU and Swiss policy, a compromise ultimately has to be found between the involved interest groups. In addition, one of the main benefits concerns the ability to directly exchange information. With the introduction of the “Green Deal”, there is an enormous amount of activity in the EU regarding environment and supply chain policy. Here, Euratex helps us maintain an overview and filter out those aspects that are of importance for our industry.

Jasmin Schmid: For us, cooperation with Euratex has resulted in privileged access to the EU Commission, even though we are non-members of the EU. The paths between business and administration are longer in the EU than in Switzerland. Euratex facilitates direct access for us to the relevant contacts in the EU Commission. At the last meeting of the Euratex Trade and Single Market Committee, for example, we were able to address our concerns regarding the revised Pan-Euro-Mediterranean (PEM) Convention (including the intended transparency between the existing and the revised PEM rules of origin) directly to the relevant member of the EU Commission.

At the Euratex Convention were there any specific initiatives that will now be launched and to which we will also make a contribution?

Nina Bachmann: Yes. At a small round table of experts the (declining) quality of textiles was discussed that is giving rise to various problems. Here the main focus was on the practical question of how the quality of textiles can be measured. It became apparent that many federations possess older documents in which quality criteria are defined. Although these are outdated, companies nonetheless continue to demand them. It was therefore proposed that uniform criteria should be created. Ultimately, the standardisation of criteria is necessary in order for the term “durability” – which will play a major role in the circular economy – to be uniformly applied. This topic will be tabled at the next Euratex meeting and discussed for the first time. It is important to ensure that standardisation will not give rise to any test costs for small and medium-sized companies. We will have to wait and see what form the solution will take.

Euratex – European Apparel and Textile Confederation

Euratex works to achieve a favourable environment within the European Union for design, development, manufacture and marketing of textile and clothing products. The EU textiles and clothing industry, with around 171,000 companies employing 1.7 million workers, is an essential pillar of the local economy across many EU regions. With over 50 billion euros of exports, the industry is a global player successfully commercialising 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.

More than 30 national industry associations are members of Euratex. A total of 300 participants attended the Euratex Convention.

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