In a speech Muirhead said that there were many opportunities and challenges facing the European leather industry in the coming years but said that European tanners still “make the best leather in the world”. Muirhead took over the COTANCE presidency from Italian tanner, Rino Mastrotto.

Earlier during the day a number of key issues were discussed at the COTANCE General Assembly meeting including the latest developments on legislation concerning leather authenticity and labelling within the European Commission.

Speaking during the meeting Jean-François Aguinaga, Head of Unit at the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry – Textiles, Fashion Design and Creative Industries said that 20 years ago 75% of leather made in Europe was destined for footwear which was protected under the 1994 Footwear Directive. However, footwear now accounts for between 40-50% of all leather and therefore legislation to protect leather goods, garment and upholstery requires coverage under the “authenticity” legislation.

Aguinaga encouraged COTANCE to join an EC group which is looking at competitiveness of fashion and high-end luxury goods industries in a coalition with other segments such as textiles.

He also confirmed that the EU was in advanced discussions with Canada and Vietnam to establish free-trade agreements was offering SME’s support against IPR and counterfeiting infringements to protect EU companies in markets such as China, Mercosur and others.