Textile manufacturers from Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are joining in an effort to fend off fierce competition from China.

Trade and textile industry experts from those countries gathered for the Agadir Agreement Region Economic Forum Dec. 13 and 14 in Tunis, Tunisia, to set a plan of action to fight off competition from Asia.

With the textile and clothing sector counting for almost 50 percent of all exports and around four million jobs, business leaders from the four member states discussed the future of their textile business and agreed on a plan aimed at the liberalization of regional trade in textiles.

According to a statement, the Moroccan minister of foreign trade, Abdellatif Maazouz, stressed the need to improve customs procedures and collaborations with international trade companies to gain new market shares in Europe. Leading luxury brands such as Christian Dior, Hermès and Yves Saint Laurent are said to have worked with mills based in the region. Sportswear and fast-fashion behemoths, on the hunt for knitwear and denim twills, such as Gap, Hennes & Mauritz and Adidas, are also among the region’s clients.

Member states also agreed on the necessity to unify management structures and target new markets, especially the U.S., where Jordan is already present. In fact, Jordan’s economy has recently grown thanks to free trade agreements including one with the U.S., as reported at the Agadir Forum.

Eliminating trade barriers and facilitating investment is a key element of the partnership between the European Union and the Mediterranean. The two regions hope to create a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010.