EU builds green wall against Asian textiles

The European Union has published new trade policies and requirements for textile exports to the EU market, policies accused of trade protectionism.

Among them, the June 2022 EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles (EUSSCT) will significantly affect East Asian textile producers, which supply 70% of the EU’s textiles.

Within the EUSSCT, by 2030, companies trading in clothing and apparel with the EU, a series of environmental regulations Standards must be adhered to Durability, absence of hazardous materials and major use of recyclable materials.

This strategy is expected to serve as a basic plan for the evolution of sustainable consumption of clothing and apparel by EU Member States. By doing so, the EU can lead its trading partners to adopt sustainable production.

The apparel, textile and footwear sectors play an important role in Asian economies, generating around 60 million jobs for the region and indirect employment for millions more.

The textile industry is still growing in most East Asian countries, with the fastest growth rates in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The region is a manufacturing hub for heavyweights of the European fast fashion industry such as Nike, Zara, C&A and H&M. Textile means The fourth great burden An environment born out of European consumption.

An H&M store in Shanghai. Photo: WeChat

The East Asian region is the world’s leading apparel producer – playing a key role in the textile and apparel supply chain. In 2019, the region Created around 55% of global textile exports.

For example, Vietnam exports US$37.6 billion worth of clothing, apparel and textile products to the global market in 2022. 5.4 billion euros ($5.8 billion) of these exports. Moved to the European Union.

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The industry is witnessing rapid growth, largely due to increased involvement in Southeast Asia driven by the EFTA-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). The EVFTA has led to greater reliance on the EU market by Vietnamese products.

Still post-Covid-19 pandemic, East Asian apparel and textile industry He has struggled Due to low demand in key markets including EU and US. Textile exports from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam also declined in 2020.

In light of this, the EUSSCT’s new regulations may affect East Asian apparel and textile manufacturers significantly more than previously anticipated.

The EUSSCT is expected to pose challenges and increase costs for the East Asian apparel sector. Companies operating within this sector must be proactive in complying with these upcoming regulations to ensure continued exports.

The European Union has set 2030 as the target year for full circularity. This puts pressure on textile and clothing businesses to comply with various aspects – including circularity, traceability and decarbonisation.

Vietnam tends to strike a delicate trade balance between the US and China.  Photo: Reuters
A clothing boutique in Hanoi city. Photo: Asia Times files / AFP / Hoang Dinh Nam

East Asian clothing and apparel manufacturers that do not use recyclable materials face heightened scrutiny. Also, the sector’s heavy water and chemical use contributes to severe water pollution as it discharges significant amounts of wastewater containing hazardous materials into rivers and waterways. Reducing carbon emissions will require changes in the sector’s business models and technological and process innovation.

But the chances are high. If other developed markets implement similar policies, the domestic transition needed to meet EU standards will better prepare the region.

Adopting green production practices can have a positive impact on the local environment and the quality of life of East Asian people. It will also open up new sustainable manufacturing and business opportunities. This, in turn, can attract more foreign investment from developed countries.

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Despite the challenges posed by these new regulations, companies in the region are proactively addressing them. Singapore-based Ramatex has already made strides in durability by researching how to make microfiber clothes that don’t shed.

In Vietnam, the Specter Garment Factory relies on renewable energy for its operations, while South Korea’s Hanse Group and Hanoi Textile and Garment Joint Stock Corporation have collaborated to produce recycled textiles for export to the European Union.

To some extent, opportunities for environmental improvement depend on existing capacities and other facilitating factors, including policy frameworks and infrastructure. Mitigating the environmental impact of textile production requires a systematic shift towards a circular economy.

This change should include greener public procurement, eco-design, labeling and standards, and increased producer responsibility. It is imperative to adopt a new development approach that is net-zero carbon and environmentally restorative.

A significant challenge in the sustainability transformation of the textile industry in East Asia is the limited knowledge and technical know-how related to environmental sustainability.

Workers supervise embroidery machines working on fabrics for wedding dresses at a small factory on the outskirts of Islamabad on September 2, 2020. Photo: Asia Times files / AFP / Farooq Naeem

Major programs should be launched to green the East Asian textile and apparel industry. They include investing in research and development and providing comprehensive education and training programs to increase expertise in environmental sustainability.

Governments should also enact supportive policies and incentives for sustainable production in the textile sector, including tax incentives and subsidies. These incentives should encourage the adoption of eco-friendly technologies and promote green supply chain practices.

International and domestic collaboration to share best practices and strategies for sustainability is also essential. By addressing these issues, East Asian textile and apparel manufacturers can better position themselves to meet the evolving standards of the European market and improve their sustainability.

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Associate Professor Dr. Hong Hai Ha is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of History, Hanoi National University of Education.

This is Article It was originally published by East Asia Forum and is republished under a Creative Commons license.

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