The textile-garment industry in the mediterranean region

Editeur : notes et études Anima n°3, Sept. 2004

Auteur : Fabrice Hatem

The textile-garment industry in the mediterranean region

The textile and clothing sector plays a key role both in the Mediterranean economies and in trade between the latter and the European Union. The leading industrial sector in Turkey or in Tunisia, it represents overall 50% of manufacturing exports from the MEDA region towards the EU. Conversely, the MEDA countries represent important outlets for the European textile industry, whose products are transformed South of the Mediterranean later to be re-exported in the form of garments, towards the West European market. An important complementarity has thus been created in the sector between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

However, this complementarity is currently threatened by two concomitant movements:

On the one hand, the rise in power of the clothing industries of Eastern Europe, towards which investment flows and subcontracting contracts from Western Europe are increasingly directed;

On the other hand, competition from Asian industries, especially the Chinese, which is likely to continue to grow in years to come as a result of the phasing out of the Multi Fibre Arrangement in 2005, following the signing of the Textile and Clothing Agreement (ATC) in Marrakesh in 1995. Between now and 2005, all the quantitative restrictions on the trade of textile and clothing products should be lifted..

Faced with the double-edged challenge of increased competition on the European market as well as on their domestic markets, the Mediterranean textile industries must modernise.

As for the European textile and clothing sector, it has been particularly hard hit by the industrial relocation movements which have taken place over the past 20 years to the benefit of the Eastern and Southern peripheral areas of the continent. Representing an opportunity for those countries with low labour costs, (for example, Rumania), this movement is symmetrically perceived as an industrial desertification factor for those countries with high internal costs (for example, France), and presents a problem of reconversion for those countries with intermediate features which had initially based their industrial take-off on labour intensive activities and which have witnessed their labour costs rise in line with the development process as it has taken shape (for example, Tunisia).

It is therefore interesting to study this activity in a systemic perspective which both throws light on the sets of problems which affect a developed country such as France and those of countries situated at different stages of the industrialisation process such as those of the MEDA region and the countries of Eastern Europe. This is what is proposed in this report (see definition of the zone taken into account Figure 1), which links the two points of view, to subsequently examine the extent to which coordinated industrial policies are possible or desirable.

An analysis of the sector brings to light, however, the marked specificities of the industrial segments upstream (textile) and downstream (garments-clothing), whose very different technico-economic features therefore involve, for the companies concerned, very distinct location behaviour and geographical configurations. It is for this reason that the textile industry, more capital intensive, with a more concentrated industrial offer, will locate more willingly in areas offering a highly structured industrial environment and qualified labour resources. The garment industry, on the other hand, represents an activity with relatively low investment costs (at least for the make-up/assembly phase), relatively little concentrated and highly sensitive, at least for mass production, to unqualified labour costs.

Without altogether eliminating the problem set of textiles, the present study focuses essentially on the garment manufacturing sector. In the first part, the analysis concerns the industry structures and the overall trends currently in force on the European market concerning the supply, the demand, and the important technological evolutions. In the second part, an examination will be made of the evolution underway in the geography of the activities within the Euro-Mediterranean area and their consequences for the different groups of countries concerned: France and Western Europe, first and second generation Eastern Europe, countries from the MEDA region etc. In conclusion, certain proposals of action specific to the countries of the MEDA region are made.

To download this study, click on the following link : textile (pdf)

You can also visit the Anima website :

Two download two series of powerpoints, updated end 2005 (in french only) : textile1 (pdf) and textile2 (pdf)

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