TTIP: Why it is essential for the European textile and garment industry

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is currently one of the most debated topics. But what exactly would the proposed free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union mean for the textile and garment industry? Euratex, the European Apparel and Textile Federation, has taken a detailed look and found that European textile and apparel companies stand to gain.

The study points to the sheer volume of textile and apparel products: more than 4.9 billion euros worth in 2014 - that is 33,000 t-shirts shipped from the EU to the US every day - making the US the No. 1 customer of textile and fashion goods made in the EU. That high-levels standards are in place on both sides of the Atlantic is a must, which will also lead to a high level of consumer protection, not to mention intellectual property rights: at the moment, fashion designs and models protected in the EU are not necessarily safe when sold to the US and vice versa.

US is No. 1 trading partner for 'Made in Europe'

Currently, different testing methods or diverging procedures make it hard and costly for companies to ship goods overseas. Selling children’s pyjamas to the US, for example, requires double certification to comply with flammability standards. Critics point out though that this may result in laxer standards overall.

"As a producer of high tech functional materials for clothes, protective workwear and technical applications, we are used to face demanding standards, conformity assessment procedures and certification requirements. The American manufacturers are meeting similar, if not sometimes stricter, requirements. If the EU and the US could at least agree on a mutual recognition as a basic principle in the TTIP, it would ease so much our way of doing business," said Michael Kamm, CEO of German functional textiles and clothing maker Sympatex Technologies GmbH.

In terms of custom costs, Euratex believes that "zero customs duties will allow EU companies to develop exports and create jobs in Europe", as well as save on paperwork and costs by not having to rely on customs brokers any more. Currently, the import duty on a woman's jacket exceeds 28 percent.

Different labelling rules could also become a thing of the past, reducing costs and increasing transparency. "What in Europe is called ‘elastan’, in the US is known as ‘spandex’ and all labels have to be changed selling to the US market. Exporting to the US is nearly impossible for small companies and the agreement would open the market to many of them," finds Norbert Blanc, policy advisor to the CEO of French manufacturer of embroidery floss, fabrics and needlework supplies DMC.