International Footwear Forum
On the occasion of the 2014 World Footwear Congress held in León, México in November 2014, the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC) launched the International Footwear Forum (IFF) to reinforce dialogue and commitment between worldwide footwear associations and confederations. The IFF aims at establishing a regular and structured dialogue, where delegates can openly discuss about the experiences they face with companies and with their administrations, as well as identify joint initiatives that can promote their companies’ growth.
The FIRST edition took place in September 2015 at the MICAM trade fair, and delegates from sixteen of the major worldwide footwear associations gathered in Milan. The debate addressed the priorities that each association had in order to better assist their respective Members and the shift in government advocacy actions. The agenda also included the topic of social responsibility standards along the supply chain, and participants discussed the possibility to work through the identification and alignment of a common declaration of principles on social corporate responsibility in the footwear supply chain, to be selected among the existing international initiatives.
The SECOND edition happened in June 2016 at FFANY New York Shoe Expo. The main topics included how trade associations could improve the engagement of their members with innovative communication tools, while becoming an efficient interlocutor for public authorities. The Forum also focused on the latest news and specific needs of the industry in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility. In this relation, participants recognised the importance to work on a joint initiative that would start by being a basic declaration with minimum requirements in accordance to one of the international existing codes/declarations. Finally, the representatives of associations discussed the best ways in which they could help their members expand export opportunities while lowering trade barriers all around the world. They particularly proposed to jointly work on promoting the signature of Free Trade Agreements towards governments. On this occasion, the CEC, AAFA and FDRA announced the recently signature of a Joint Statement with the aim to urge the EU and US authorities to ensure a satisfactory conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Another proposal was to share information useful for businesses when accessing other markets, such as labelling requirements and the restricted substances in the production.
With the occasion of the 20th UITIC International Technical Footwear Congress’s, the THIRD edition of the IFF was held in May 2018 in Porto and focused on promoting International Trade in light of the increase of protectionist measures across the world during the last years. The representatives from five continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America) signed a Joint Declaration supporting Free and Fair Trade in the Footwear Sector committed to cooperate on ensuring that footwear companies can benefit from the trade opportunities of an open and fair market, and firmly stated their opposition to every sort of tariff and/or non-tariff barriers. The Joint Declaration also calls for policy makers to work towards the establishment of a level playing field for and open and fair global market with no dumping and counterfeiting practices. Unfortunately, much effort needs to be done and associations are invited to work closely with their policy makers for an open and fair market. Since last May in Porto, new tariff and non-tariff barriers have unfortunately have been put in place, and it seems that governments are far from understanding industry and consumers’ needs in the global economy in which we live in.
The FOURTH edition of the IFF coincided with the sixth edition of the World Footwear Congress 2019 in Naples. The Congress title, Digitalisation for a Sustainable Footwear Industry, revealed two of the most powerful market influencers. Both concepts are ever-evolving and include many opportunities but also challenges.
The FIFTH edition of the IFF took place on February 2, 2021, and was held virtually for the first time due to the ourbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It gathered 25 footwear associations from 24 countries from across the globe and welcomed two high-level speakers: Denis Redonnet, Deputy Director-General and Chief Trade Enforcement Officer at DG Trade in the European Commission, and Achim Berg, Senior Partner & Global Leader of McKinsey’s apparel, fashion, and luxury group.
The SIXTH edition of the IFF took place on March 22, 2022; also this edition was held virtually due to the still standing Covid-19 measures; Nevertheless, the attendance met the expectations and representatives from 25 countries around the world exchanged views on the current state of global footwear trade.
The event, co-organised this year with the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), could not avoid addressing the historical period we are living in and the impact on the industry and the supply chain. The welcome message by CEC Secretary General Carmen Arias, on behalf of CEC President Luis Onofre, referred to the “rollercoaster” that the industry has been experiencing since 2020 due to both the Covid-19 waves and, more recently, the terrifying Russian invasion of Ukraine: a rollercoaster that is being overcome with a strong proof of resilience from footwear companies. Matt Priest, FDRA President & CEO and moderator of the Forum, echoed the CEC words by emphasising how the sector proved to be resilient, agile and innovative during these difficult times and stressed the importance of maintaining a global network to regularly meet, discuss and build common pathways. The key note speaker, Sushan Demirjian, Acting Assistant for SMEs, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, illustrated the future steps of President Biden’s trade policy and its impact on the footwear industry, while Gary Raines, Chief Economist at FDRA, presented an in-depth economic review of the global footwear trends. After these interventions, during the open discussion the delegates focused also on sustainability and technology, themes of utmost importance shaping not only the future of our sector but also the global political agenda.
What emerged from the IFF, as highlighted in the final remarks by Steven Lamar, AAFA President & CEO, is that we are all on the same side and we should reinforce our cooperation in a period of radical change for the industry. The meeting ended with the commitment from the participants to engage in the identification of topics of common interest and to meet more regularly.