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EU Seeks to Align Textile Labeling, Chemical Classification Under TTIP

The European Union and United States have been working to harmonize on certain textile regulations under the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in an effort to free up trade and set common regulatory standards.

If successfully settled, TTIP, designed in part to reduce–and in some cases remove–tariffs or taxes applied to imports between the nations, could cut down on costs for business as it may eliminate the need to perform production processes like testing twice.

Instead of brands having to test for lead in a product with one standard for the U.S. and a slightly different one for the EU, each country’s regulatory body would potentially be able to recognize the testing that is done for the other under TTIP.

In advance of the fifth round of Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks held in Arlington, Virginia. this week, the European Commission published its negotiating positions in five more areas to ensure transparency in the trade talks. The proposals include working more closely with the U.S. to set common standards in chemical classification and textile labeling and production requirements.

According to the paper, current chemical regulations in the EU and U.S. differ significantly, so complete harmonizing or mutual recognition is not feasible, but the EU did outline four areas where working together could be beneficial. Those include: prioritizing chemicals for assessment and agreeing on how best to test them, classifying and labeling chemicals, identifying and addressing new or emerging issues, and sharing data and protecting confidential business information more effectively.

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“Doing so could make our systems more efficient and thereby cut firms’ costs,” the paper noted.

In terms of textiles and clothing, the EU seeks to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. in three main areas: labeling, consumer protection and convergence on standards.

For labeling, the EU wants mutual recognition of care instruction symbols and alignment of new textile fiber names. Under product safety and consumer protection, the two countries should work jointly to clarify requirements of fabric fire safety, align the list of restricted substances for textile production and set technical standards for protective clothing and other specialized products.

Julia K. Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Indsutry Association, said, “I think we all appreciate the EU releasing a paper that spells out exactly their position on some of the issues. The transparency is very helpful to make sure that companies are understanding the full breadth of these negotiations and what opportunities there are for the future.”

This week’s TTIP talks were part of moving the negotiating process along, Hughes said, “But we are still at early days and I don’t think much progress has been made in any sector.”

Negotiators are working out what the details on rules of origin and market access would be under TTIP among other things, and getting all parties to agree will be an ongoing process.

“The part where all of the industry groups agree is on the principal, if not the substance,” Hughes said. “From textiles to retailers and brands, we all agree that TTIP is the perfect vehicle to try to eliminate some of the duplications and differences between regulations.”