The European textile and clothing industry managed to reduce its trade deficit to 48 billion euros in 2021, thanks to a 10.6 % increase in exports and a 7.5 % drop in imports. In its annual report, the representative body Euratex describes this as an encouraging sign. However, it highlights the multiple factors of instability, from Brexit to the situation in Ukraine and high transport costs.


«The export figures for 2021, presented in this spring report, confirm that Euratex members have gained momentum,» celebrated the organization’s CEO Dirk Vantyghem.

«Even if energy prices cause serious disruption in the short term, our long-term ambition remains to be a world leader in sustainable textiles,» he added.

In this latest report, Euratex notes the slight drop in prices of clothing imports, and the sharper fall in prices linked to textile imports. The latter drop is largely due to a fall in the price of imports of face masks and medical protective equipment from China, the prices of which had soared during the previous fiscal year.

On the export side, Switzerland, China and the United States would have been the drivers in fiscal 2021. At the same time, Euratex also highlights a 23% drop in European textile-garment exports to the United Kingdom. A fall linked to the Brexit, which causes «customs delays and a shortage of truck drivers» on British soil.

The Brexit effect is also reflected on the import side. UK clothing and textile shipments fell by 48% year-on-year, or €3 billion. Euratex also notes a 28 % drop in orders from China, the EU’s leading textile and clothing supplier, which reduced its trade volume by €13 billion.

Naturally, the situation in Ukraine is also mentioned in this report. Euratex points out that this country is proving to offer «precious sourcing opportunities» for European contractors seeking to bring their production (or nearshoring) closer to home. A trend towards local production that the confederation points to as a growing phenomenon in the sector.

The Euratex report logically gives a big place to the «Sustainable and Circular Textiles by 2030» project, presented by the European Commission on March 30. The objective, by the end of the decade, is that all textile products offered for sale in the EU should be sustainable, free of hazardous materials and produced in compliance with social standards.

«With 100 billion euros of imports and more than 20 billion ‘foreign’ textile articles entering the single market, this requires a dramatic increase in market surveillance, without disrupting the fluidity of supply chains,» warned Euratex, which is continuing to develop its European center dedicated to textile recycling.

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