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'Sustainability and competitiveness must go hand in hand'

European textile industry focuses on a greener and more competitive sector

Under the Belgian EU Presidency, Centexbel, Creamoda, EURATEX, and Fedustria hosted a successful event on the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles. Around 200 people gathered in Brussels. European policymakers, Belgian politicians, government experts, and, of course, CEOs of textile and clothing companies discussed the key components to develop a strategy that will support the competitiveness of the sector.

Amid economic turmoil and changing legislation, there was a consensus on the need to strengthen the competitive position of European textile and clothing companies. 'Sustainability and competitiveness must go hand in hand. It is crucial that the upcoming European Commission and Parliament act decisively to implement a robust industrial policy.'

Global competition concerns
The EU's open trade policy offers growth prospects and market expansion, but concerns over global competition are significant. The panellists discussed maintaining Europe's competitive advantage through common standards, strong market oversight, and strategic policy alignment, particularly regarding potential free trade agreements with India and policy shifts in the US.

Textiles of the future
Innovation emerges as the link between sustainability and competitiveness. The announcement of the Horizon Europe Partnership program "Textiles of the Future," along with discussions on joint research initiatives and talent shortages, underscored the industry's commitment to transformative technologies.

These were the panelists: Amaryllis Verhoeven (DG GROW, European Commission), Christophe Kiener (DG TRADE, European Commission), Steve Lamar (CEO American Apparel and Footwear Association), Julie Lietaer (CEO European Spinning Group & founder Ariadne Innovation), Carl Baekelandt (CEO Purfi/Concordia Textiles), Hans Dewaele (Executive Vice President & CCO BekaertDeslee), Johan Haelterman (Chairman of the Executive Committee at NBN & member of the ISO Council), Pol Lombaert (Group Innovation Director BIG Floorcoverings), Wouter Verbouwe (Business Development CE and R&D Manager Basaltex), Elsie De Clercq (Advisor VLAIO), and many others.

Crucial role of the textile industry
Alexia Bertrand, Secretary of State for Budget and Consumer Protection, delivered the closing speech, highlighting the crucial role of the textile industry in the European green transition. She emphasised the urgent need for more competitiveness and market oversight, and the creation of a level playing field for the import of textiles and clothing from outside Europe. Finally, Bertrand stressed the importance of supporting consumers by providing them access to information.

Strengthening competitiveness
Karla Basselier, CEO of Fedustria, thanked the Belgian EU Presidency. It was important to receive this support for organising the event. Grateful that Belgium has placed the need to strengthen our competitiveness as one of the top priorities of the presidency on the agenda. 'Now is the time for action, as a competitive textile industry within Europe is the only engine to realise the European textile strategy.'

According to Dirk Vantyghem, Director-General of EURATEX, these events are crucial to align the views of different stakeholders: the industry, research institutions, national governments, and also global partners. 'We are all interconnected, especially in the textile sector. If we truly want to change the world, we must collaborate: it is the only way to reconcile a green policy with an industrial policy.'

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