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Wool Round Table Brussels 2014 ( 02-12-2014 )

Wool Round Table Brussels 2014

A day of interactive discussions, this year's edition of the Wool Round Table focused on international trade agreements that impact the wool industry, and the role of wool in fire safety and protection

Summary - Agendas - Photos


Following the Multi Stakeholder Meeting on 1 December, the wool industry gathered for its annual Wool Round Table in Brussels on 2 December 2014. 

A day of interactive discussions, this year's Wool Round Table focused on international trade agreements that impact the wool industry, and the role of wool in fire safety and protection. As was the case with the Multi Stakeholder Meeting, it was clear from these discussions that the wool industry has important messages for the marketplace and must act to communicate them.


Session summaries:

Introduction: Current Trends in Global Apparel

Trade Issues and Opportunities for the Wool Industry

Wool in Fire and Safety Textiles

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Introduction: Current Trends in Global Apparel

Speaker: Peter Ackroyd, IWTO President


IWTO President Peter Ackroyd’s introductory remarks on current trends in global apparel touched on the highs and lows of the market for wool as the year draws to a close. With the general slowdown in the Chinese economy, the mood among weavers was less buoyant than twelve months ago, and poor demand in the Eurozone offered little solace. Japan is perhaps the single strongest market for wool products at the moment, with tweed looks in particular dominating the middle and upper-middle markets. Elsewhere, in response to a squeezed middle market trying to hold its ground, one trend of note in the wool world is the “fibre upgrade”, in which the overall wool content of a collection is increased. Another trend is the worldwide appetite for ingredient branding, now poised to take off in China. Finally, wool is seen as slowly returning to women’s wear in the form of the layered look. After a long absence from this lucrative sector this is much-welcomed change and one that is hoped will continue to grow.


Trade Issues and Opportunities for the Wool Industry

Moderator: Nigel Gosse, Manager Marketing Programs, Northern Hemisphere, Woolmark International, United Kingdom



  • María Isabel Garcia Catalan, Head of Sector Rules of Origin, Directorate General Trade, European Commission, Belgium
  • Julio Cardoso, Policy Officer – Textiles, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry, European Commission, Belgium
  • Karl Spilhaus, President, Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, United States


In its many guises, wool needs to be brought to market. This relies heavily on trade agreements. Representatives from the European Commission offered insight into the numerous mechanisms at work in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), citing rules of origin, cumulation, and transformation. Speaker Julio Cardoso emphasized that, from a competitive point of view, Europe seeks a level playing field for textiles. European textile business in Europe are highly diversified, mainly SMEs, and facing intense global competition. A large portion of the presentations focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement between the EU and US that is currently in negotiation. Speaker Karl Spilhaus’s presentation illustrated a number of complex and entrenched challenges between the EU and US with respect to this agreement, including divergent standards such as country of origin labelling, the yarn forward rule, and the Berry Amendment (US legislation requiring its defense department to procure textile and apparel from domestic sources with 100% US inputs).

One option for resolution of some of TTIP’s challenges is to use ISO standards as guidelines for diverging standards, and mutual recognition of tools/mechanisms for demonstrating compliance with requirements. With negotiations ongoing, this ambitious agreement has implications for jobs, growth and global standards, and as subsequent rounds are set for February 2015, it is something the wool industry must keep its eye on.


Wool in Fire and Safety Textiles

Moderator: Peter Ackroyd, President, IWTO



  • Garry Brown, Fire and Rescue Adviser, Fire, Resilience and Emergencies Directorate, Department for Communities and Local Government, United Kingdom
  • Julio Cardoso, Policy Officer – Textiles, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry, European Commission, Belgium
  • Andy Caughey, Managing Director, Armadillo Merino, United Kingdom
  • Tom Hainsworth, Managing Director, A W Hainsworth & Sons, United Kingdom
  • Kurt Haselwander, CEO, Schoeller Spinning Group, United Kingdom


The overarching theme of this session was expressed by speaker Andy Caughey: “It is amazing to think that hair of a small ruminant can protect people from damage in extreme environments.”

But while there has been a long-standing regard for protecting front-line workers such as those in the forces or civil-protection, as well as for those in extreme environments, for too long use of wool in these areas has eroded – to the detriment of the people who most need its protection.

Presentations from speakers Garry Brown and Andy Caughey both vividly illustrated to the ways that wool works for the front line officer and in extreme environments. Wool provides a fire-resistant garment with no melt or drip properties, and is non-toxic, breathable, and wicks away moisture. Wool also prevents heat fatigue with its thermal-regulation properties. All of these are crucial performance concerns for front-line protection apparel (known as PPEs, or personal protective equipment), and given these facts it is hard to believe that wool is not the predominate fibre in performance textiles.

While previous understanding concentrated on protection from the outside in, new evidence shows that protection works best when it comes from the inside and moves out. This has immediate implications for wool, as this evidence suggests that many of the challenges faced especially by front-line responders could be eased with the use of wool ‘next to skin’ garments.

But as speaker Tom Hainsworth explained, legal requirements at least in the firefighting sector are currently based on aramids. He urged a return to wool and for standards to be driven by very real needs for protection, arguing that it is not only the right thing to do but the best commercial thing to do. Equally, speaker Julio Cardoso encouraged the wool industry to participate in the development of standards in for PPEs and other textiles. But whether the public sector will pay to get the best level of protection for their people remains to be seen.

Opportunities also exist for wool to provide safety and improved comfort in the interiors of homes, cars and planes, as wool provides the same non-toxic, fire-resistant and moisture-controlling properties in these contexts. Again, the concept was raised – by speaker Kurt Haselwander, in his presentation on interiors for vehicles – that “safety shouldn’t be a question of price.”

The session ended with a clear understanding that the industry must do more to bring its message to a wider audience, and bring both safety and sustainability to the marketplace. 





Contact us at meetings{at}iwto.org





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