ECONOMY

EU-Med. basin textile-clothing partnership project launched

Following a meeting in Tunis on January 19 and 20, representatives of the 10 Mediterranean partnership countries (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Germany, France and Greece) decided to launch the E-MED TEX-NET project, aimed at reinforcing partnership relationships between different parties in the textile-clothing industry in the EU and the Mediterranean region. With financial backing from the European Commission under the Eumedis program, the E-MED TEX-NET project aims to be an ambitious instrument for development around the Mediterranean basin and a good way to deal with international competition. The stakes are high: With global production of 141 billion euros, including exports worth 60 billion euros, and 6 million jobs, textiles and clothing constitutes a key sector in the socioeconomic balance of the EU-Mediterranean area and the biggest industrial employer in the region. The E-MED TEX-NET project, spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Paris, draws on new information technology to improve the global competitiveness of companies and to connect them to an online network. Once the project is up and running in mid-2004, industrial and commercial companies in all the countries of the EU and the Mediterranean will have online access to new ways of: Investigating markets, competitors, commercial legislation, technological innovations, etc; Communicating online and carrying out all sort of commercial transactions online; Measuring their industrial and commercial performance and improving profitability; Improving the abilities and the qualifications of staff in all disciplines from clothes-making to quality control, marketing and management. Organized through an Internet portal, the system should also offer a wide range of expertise and assistance to companies. Eventually, a network of interconnected companies will be established which will constitute a center of excellence in the European and Mediterranean region to respond to the challenge of market globalization. With a few exceptions (particularly Turkey and Tunisia), the Mediterranean countries are not very well prepared for the challenges ahead. In the medium term (2005), they will face the end of the Textile-Clothing Agreement (TCA) and the reduction in customs duties envisaged under the WTO. In the longer term (mainly after 2010), the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area will come into being. The absence of correlation between these two timetables presents a problem, but the European Commission believes that this can be overcome with financial and technical assistance. (European Report)