By  on December 16, 2004

MILAN — The heads of the Italian and French fashion associations will meet here on Jan. 17 to sign an agreement that will strengthen the cooperation between the two countries in the wake of the abolition of quotas on textiles and apparel among the 148 nations of the World Trade Organization. As a consequence, the two associations will ask that the European Parliament endorse a regulation whereby products made outside the European Economic Community should feature a label stating their country of origin, which is still not mandatory here. “We are confident that this regulation will pass,” Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, told WWD.The nine-step agreement will be signed in front of the trade ministers of France and Italy. “Together with Didier Grumbach [president of the French Ready-to-Wear and Couture Federation], we have found a concrete and healthy way to deal with the competition that has increased dramatically over the past five years,” said Boselli.Boselli said other priorities include a sophisticated monitoring system to help control imports in advance, and increased cooperation with textile and apparel producing countries located on the Mediterranean Sea, from Morocco to Turkey. “This will allow us to increase our synergies and strengthen us,” he said.The monitoring, explained Boselli, is based on companies communicating their level of imports and constantly registering the goods. “The regulation is currently being fine-tuned and should be finalized by the end of the  year,” he said.  As for counterfeiting, the Italians will ask the European Parliament to approve a regulation more in line with French law, which is one of the most rigorous, punishing the customers of counterfeit products as well as the producers of them. Boselli said Europe will gain from common strategies with Mediterranean countries, which are registering significant growth rates. “Europe’s expansion to the East [with the addition of 10 countries to the EEC this spring] is complete, now we have to focus on working with the South,” said Boselli. “We see this is as an area of free exchanges.” Boselli noted that this cooperation will help Europe be more competitive while maintaining production closer to the Continent. “The synergies in terms of costs and quality are evident,” said Boselli.The agreement endorsed by Boselli and Grumbach reinforces the cooperation between Italy and France, which was put into place in June 2000. “The fashion calendars will be increasingly rationalized, and could lead to a single, common calendar for the two capitals of fashion, Milan and Paris, which will gradually replace the national calendars,” said Boselli. As per the agreement, the two associations are also mapping out a series of exhibitions and fashion shows to be held together outside Europe.

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