Mr Christian P. Schindler
Director International Textile Manufacturers Federation
The International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) is one of the oldest non-governmental organizations. Founded in 1904, at a meeting held in Zurich and convened at the initiative of the British cotton spinning industry, for many years, and throughout both World Wars, the Federation represented and promoted the interests of the cotton spinning and manufacturing industries of the world.
The advent of man-made fibres broadened the raw material basis of the cotton industry. At the same time, vertical integration in textile enterprises changed the structure of the industry and broadened its scope. Thus onwards 1960, there was a significant expansion in membership of the Federation and today it embraces the major part of the world's textile production. It thus reflects the process of internationalization which has taken place in textile manufacturing since the end of World War II. Not only have the location of world textile industrial capacities undergone far-reaching changes, the readjustment process has also affected the structure of trade associations in the industry. Their former fragmentation is gradually giving way to a more concentrated and integrated framework of representation.
In response to these developments, the Federation in 1978 changed its name to "International Textile Manufacturers Federation". On the basis of its present structure and scope, the Federation is qualified to represent the broadest possible segment of the world's textile industries.
How do you feel taking over the reins of such a huge organisation like ITMF?
It is of course a big task to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, Dr. Herwig Strolz, who successfully led the Federation for 37 years. But it is certainly a challenge that is fascinating since you are working in an industry that is in many respects the forerunner in the fast moving developments and changes of the world economy. It is also an industry which is visible and tangible and therefore has relevance for the final consumer.
What role do you foresee for the organisation in the coming times?
"The major function of a Federation such as the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) in today’s world is twofold. First, it must keep its world wide membership informed through surveys, publications and conferences about the ongoing changes and developments in the textile industry seen from an international point of view. Second, it has to provide a unique global network for its members that includes decision makers from the whole value chain – from the fibre producers and traders and textile machinery manufacturers via textile sourcing companies, textile and apparel consultancies to fashion producers and retailers. The overall objective is to provide information and/or to have access to information that enables our members to get the best possible picture of the industry’s situation and development."
What is your impression on the competition, in particular that from China, and other Asian textile majors for the global progress of the industry in general?
"In the past decade China has evolved as the major player in the textile arena in terms of production, export and import of textiles. The arrival of China as the dominant competitor has certainly intensified global competition with all the consequences for many other competitors regarding market share. It is without question that China will also have a big impact on the developments of the textile industry in the years to come both as the producers and also as a consumer of textiles. Nevertheless, other textile producing countries are and will be able to play an important role as well. The results of the ITMF’s annual International Textile Machinery Shipments Statistics in the past few years proves that while China has become the main investor of textile machinery other countries like India, Pakistan, Vietnam or Bangladesh are also expanding their production capacities. Other countries too keep investing – sometime on a lower level – in new machinery indicating that they also see a future for their products. In general the global demand for textiles will continue to raise due to a growing world population and higher income levels in many developing countries. At the same time the demand of more sophisticated textile applications will increase as well due to new technical developments and possibilities in areas such as nanotechnology."
Do you envision the end of composite textile manufacturing and the rise of the fragmented industry that will bring ‘order in disorder’?
"Fiercer competition, increasing capital costs and the ongoing process of product diversification in the textile industry are often leading to the necessity to specialize in order to be more efficient and therefore more competitive. This does not mean that integrated textile companies will disappear completely on the other hand. To have an integrated company offers also advantages such as risk diversification. But companies are more and more forced to concentrate on their core business offering their customers a true value added in order to be successful. This will make it necessary to outsource services and/or products that other companies can provide less costly. This process of outsourcing is likely to intensify in the years to come."
Free trade and liberalisation are the key words for global economic progress. What is your view of the quotas, free trade agreements (FTAs) and regional treaties that might even worsen the stability of global markets?
The ITMF is a private, non-profit and non-political international organisation and therefore not actively involved in trade policies issues. Of course, we are informing our members about the developments and consequences of changes with regard to trade policy. It seems evident that the phase-out of the quota-regime will lead to even more regional trade agreements, especially, if effort for a successful multinational trade agreement (Doha-Round) does not look to be promising these days. The need for the industry to adapt to this new environment has certainly not come to an end. Of course, where you have winners, you are bound to have losers. But these changes are going on now for quite some time and it is unlikely that they will cause any kind of instability.
Any special message for the members and visitors of our portal Fibre2fashion?
The portal certainly offers with a click a wide range of services that are useful in today’s accelerating global economy. It is a portal that enables everyone involved in the textile industry to have rapid access to information and business opportunities on a global scale. In today’s web-world portals like the one from Fibre2fashion represent an irreplaceable tool that cannot replace personal contacts but that can serve as an additional tool in order to adapt to the fast changing opportunities and risks.
Published on: 05/02/2007
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.
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