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Wool for Future Markets:  

A Welcome to the 87th Congress from IWTO's President

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I very much look forward to welcoming you to Hong Kong in May 2018 for the 87th IWTO Congress. It promises to be a stimulating and memorable three days.

It is just over forty years ago, in November 1977, that I first set foot in Hong Kong, then a British Crown Colony and since 1997, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

In those early days, the wool business in Hong Kong was mainly confined to imports of European suiting fabrics for the booming made to measure business and the nascent cut-make-and-trim industry that was developing in the New Territories, all handled by the European Taipan trading companies established in the late nineteenth century. The local acrylic knitting industry was waiting impatiently in the wings for more interesting times yet to come.

As the 1970s drew to a close, the world of wool in Asia and far beyond was about to embark upon on an unstoppable journey. It all commenced with what was referred to as the 'Period of Readjustment' in China, a process of fundamental structural change that was started in 1979 and led to the radical economic reforms that began to emerge in 1982 under Deng Xiaoping. 

Vice Premier Deng's early commitment to foreign trade saw the rapid setting up in 1979 of three key enclaves where foreign investment could receive special treatment; in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou, all in Guangdong Province. Globalisation of the textile and garment manufacturing industry had begun, just a few kilometres north of where our Congress will be held in Hong Kong. 

The move to mix the free market with state control in China was to have a profound effect on manufacturing and retail distribution in the high per capita wool consuming countries of the world. Hong Kong played a pioneer part in this process and became an essential Asian sourcing hub for the world's most prestigious fashion and interior textile retailers. That Hong Kong had become home to many textile tycoons of yesteryear China, played a pivotal role in this process.

The programme we have put together for the Congress will review and reflect upon global sourcing, now in an era of much greater transparency and accountability. Our speakers will be addressing how the wool industry can continue to play a leading, high profile role in the world of sustainable fashion and interiors. Some may even dare to touch on the trend towards local sourcing and the scourge of global fast fashion!

We have negotiated an excellent package for our delegates at the prestigious Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, very close to the heart of the textile industry and the representative offices of all the major global retailers in Hong Kong. The accommodation deal is in fact so attractive, you might even be tempted to check out the Shan Palace, a Michelin 3* Cantonese restaurant that lurks in level B1 of the hotel. Well worth a detour, as the travel guides say.

All details are available at www.iwto.org/events/2018-congress Do note our Young Professionals Programme, which offers a very attractive package to Members aged 35 years and younger. 

With my good wishes.

R. Peter Ackroyd


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