On Thursday 5th of September 2019 we received a delegation of 17 people from the EU Commission accompanied by 2 EDANA directors.

The representatives from the EU Commission were officials from 3 different Directorate-General divisions, DG GROW, DG TRADE and DG TAXUD.

From EDANA we welcomed Jacques Prigneaux, the market analysis and economic affairs director and Marines Lagemaat, the scientific and Technical affairs director.

The purpose of the visit was to provide a better understanding of the nonwoven production processes. Indeed, defining production as a two-step process, the web-forming and the web-bonding, is crucial in terms of rules of origin, and therefore when a certificate of origin is requested. This would mean for our global customers a reduction in import duties which would allow TWE an easier access towards them.

A short technical explanation:

Many customers from within the EU ask us to issue a certificate of European origin if we sell them our nonwovens, because their customers often from outside the EU require this to avoid high import duties.

At the same time our potential customer from outside the EU do also ask the same from us, as otherwise they often need to pay, depending on the country 10% or even up to 25% of import duties for our nonwovens. You can imagine if we have competitors in that country we have an enormous disadvantage and have difficulties to sell there.

Since always, the rules of origin for nonwovens state that a certificate of European origin can only be issued if our nonwovens do not contain more than 10% of non-European fibers.

As not enough fibres are being produced by the European fibre producers, we need to import more and more. Also, some highly technical fibre types are simply not produced in the EU, so we have no other choice rather than to import them from countries like South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc…

This means that most of our nonwovens do contain much more than this allowed maximum of 10% of non-European fibers, some of them even as high as 100%. Consequence is that for those products we cannot issue a certificate of origin and our exporting ability weakens.

Since many years EDANA, our trade association, tries to fight against this and strives for nonwovens to get a different status on rules of origin.

The aim of this meeting was to show EU Commission officials that nonwovens production is a two-steps process. Therefore, the doubled transformation, required to give the EU origin to the products, is by definition guaranteed, regardless of where their raw materials are coming from.

We presented them the TWE company presentation, adding some market data info persuading them that we needed to buy fibres from outside the EU as those were not sufficiently available.

During that presentation there were many interesting questions asked which were all answered, we had a good dialogue.

After the presentation we showed them several of our production lines and ended with showing them our newest investment, line 16, the world’s largest ADL (acquisition and distribution layer) production line, being 4,5 m wide.

We had a very good feeling about the outcome of this gathering, and we are hopeful we could convince at least the EU Commission people about the criticality of this matter for our industry.

While the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan and the Mercosur agreement do already include EDANA's definition of nonwovens, giving the EU origin, EU Commission is now more informed as far as nonwovens are concerned, to negotiate other trade agreements (e.g. with Paneuromed countries, USA, Australia, ...).