Members of the Cotance Council met in April under the chairmanship of Giuseppe W Peretti (Conceria Cristina) to review the state of trade. They also looked at the progress in the current WTO trade negotiations and the EU proposal for a WTO Agreement to curb export taxes (on raw materials) which was officially presented that week in Geneva.

Members welcomed the joint statement signed by Cotance with its US counterparts in the leather sector earlier in February (see Leather International, May, page 6, and visit []). Cotance members issued a special call to all stakeholders in the leather industry to ensure that the Doha Round delivers the timely deal on free and fair trade that the industry requires.

National associations present were: Italy (UNIC), Spain (CEC-FECUR), Germany (VDL), France (FFTM), Sweden (SG), United Kingdom (UK Leather Federation), Netherlands (FNL), Belgium (UNITAN) and Hungary (BCE).

World trade in the leather sector represents US$46 billion ranking it among the most important internationally traded commodities. Cotance believe that tariff and non-tariff barriers on imports and exports of the sector’s products constitute an enormous cost handicap for the leather industry worldwide, consuming resources that could be better allocated in increasing wealth in the leather industry. They adversely distort global trade flows and interfere critically in the pricing of supplies causing irreparable damage to the leather industry’s structures in rich and poor nations.

An ambitious tariff liberalisation coupled with an end to export taxes/restrictions on raw materials and intermediate products in mature and emerging markets would bring huge benefits to the leather trade in both developed and developing countries. It would avoid preference erosion for least developed countries as well as provide them with a real opportunity to grow.

The European leather industry plays a key role in innovation and market development but has lost 30% of its companies and workforce over the last decade. Failure to achieve a firm commitment of trade partners to open up their markets to international competition and to eliminate export taxes/restrictions on raw materials would have significant consequences in the EU leather value chain, its companies and its workforce as well as on the sustainable development of industrial know-how, environmental liability, innovation and R&D that Europe develops benefiting the global leather industry.