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ITMF Celebrates A Century Of Service

ITMF has grown from a regional organization serving cotton interests to a global one serving broader textile interests.

Janet Bealer Rodie, Assistant Editor

ITMF members took time out from the 100th annual meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, to explore Mount Rigi.

T he year 2004 marked the International Textile Manufacturers Federation's (ITMF's) centennial. ITMF was established in 1904 to address issues related to chronic cotton shortages that resulted in market destabilization and manipulation; and to foster cooperation among cotton producers, shippers and downstream manufacturers. First named International Federation of Master Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers Associations, it comprised associations from 10 European countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Over the past century, the federation has grown and evolved reflecting the evolution of the textile industry itself into a global organization that is focused not only on cotton, but also on the man-made fibers sector and the complete textile chain of productivity including manufacturing processes and machinery advancements.

In its early years, the federation, then also known as the International Cotton Federation, was based in Manchester, England, and all of its founding members represented importers of cotton. Originally, it set its sights on increasing the global supply of cotton. However, it also addressed unfair and dishonest trade practices; advocated best practices, contract uniformity, transparency, and improved shipping conditions, among other conditions; and insisted on contract compliance. Interventions in the form of resolutions or intense lobbying efforts often influenced governments to pass regulatory legislation to end unfair practices by suppliers, or institute protections of existing contracts. The federation also has provided a neutral setting in which disputes between parties such as cotton suppliers and spinning mills could be resolved, and the parties could gain a better understanding of one another's needs.

Related to the need to increase cotton supply was the need to ensure its quality. In 1907, the federation passed a resolution advocating standardization of the cotton classing system in the United States, which led to the establishment in 1924 of the Universal Cotton Standards system of classing. Each year from 1922 until government estimates were available, the federation provided its members with private US cotton crop estimates. It also worked with the Egyptian government to ensure the quality of cotton imported from that country. In 1949, it began cooperating with the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), an intergovernmental agency formed to address raw cotton concerns, and comprising representatives of cotton-producing and -consuming nations.

During the years before World War II, the federation's membership expanded to include associations from other European nations as well as Russia, Japan, India, China and Egypt. Political developments caused some membership fluctuation, and during World War II the federation's activities were disrupted. With the return of political stability following the war, especially from 1954 onward, membership grew significantly. Today, with 55 member associations, associate members and corporate members from 46 countries on six continents, ITMF is the longest-surviving international manufacturers trade association.

Changing With The Times

In 1954, in response to the emergence of the man-made fiber industry and the vertical integration of textile companies, the federation changed its name to International Federation of Cotton and Allied Textile Industries (IFCATI). In 1963, IFCATI moved its headquarters from Manchester to Zurich, Switzerland, where it is based today. As man-made fibers took their place on the textile stage, the federation saw their development as complementary to natural fiber production, and encouraged cotton producers to turn their attention to production research and promotion. In 1977, it opened its associate membership to organizations representing man-made fiber producers. The following year, it changed its name to its current iteration International Textile Manufacturers Federation.

As global trade expanded, especially from the 1960s onward, the federation stressed the need for the industry to modernize and streamline its operations, ramp up its research efforts and develop new processes and end-uses, seek new market opportunities, and ensure product quality throughout the entire production chain. ITMF also expanded its statistical information services to its members. For example, its biennial cotton contamination survey helps track contamination levels and provides indications of improvements. Its quarterly State of Trade report tracks global yarn and fabric production and orders. It also publishes annually the International Textile Machinery Shipment Statistics report; and the International Cotton Industrial Statistics report, which details productive capacity, machinery utilization and raw material consumption within the international short-staple sector. Its annual Country Statements report reviews the state of the textile industry in each member country. The biennial International Production Cost Comparison tracks production costs in the spinning, texturing, weaving and knitting sectors.The federation has set up several specialist technical subcommittees including the Technical Committee, Spinners Committee, Joint Cotton Committee and Statistical Committee. Operating under the Technical Committee is the International Committee on Cotton Testing Methods, whose HVI User Guide helps promote the high-volume instrument (HVI) testing of cotton. The Spinners Committee focuses on cotton fiber quality, processing and testing. Through it and the Joint Cotton Committee, which includes both spinners and merchants, ITMF interacts with governments, international organizations and cotton-related trade associations. The Statistical Committee is responsible for the federations statistical services.

ITMF also participates in international committees including the International Calibration Cotton Standards Committee, which also is supported by the US Department of Agriculture, the National Cotton Council and the American Cotton Shippers Association.

Looking Ahead

"Reaching 100 years has been possible only because the federation has at all times responded to the needs of the hour and the requirements of the industry," said Director General Herwig M. Strolz, reflecting on ITMF's legacy. "Being confronted early with the need to devise a market-oriented working and service program, the federation does not have to re-invent the wheel when looking at the future. Many of the things it has been doing will have to continue whether it be in the area of raw materials or in measuring the industry from investments to production costs. New initiatives will be taken up in response to members needs and will have to be practical and market-focused."

ITMF Objectives
  • To provide a forum for discussion of matters appropriately within the common interest and concern of textile companies
  • To provide a neutral meeting ground for textile trade associations for the exchange of information on matters affecting their textile industries, consistent with the trade regulation laws of the nations    represented
  • To act as a central agency of the textile industries for the collection of information, statistical and otherwise, on textile manufacturing developments in all countries of the world
  • To act as spokesman for the world textile industry in matters relating to raw materials (cotton and man-made fibers)
  • To perform the functions of a liaison agent between the textile industries and governments and intergovernmental organizations interested in the textile industry.
February 2005