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Apparel Industry in the EU–China Exports and Circular Economy

Published Online: 02 Apr 2021
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Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
19 Oct 2012
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

In the current social and economic world context, Chinese trade relations represent a challenge for all partners. The article provides an overview of bilateral trade, especially export, between the European Union (EU) and China in the apparel and accessories industry, most performance parts of the bilateral relations from the textile industry. The research is highlighting the major trends of export relations for this industry during 2001–2019. The author presents the evolution of articles of apparel and accessories exports in the EU and China, emphasizing the major tendencies for each of them. Further are developed benchmarks of Romanian contribution to the relationship between EU and China. The methods used present a multi-method approach, utilizing primary and secondary research through exploratory data from the official website regarding the apparel industry, as EU Statistics, International Trade Centre, and others. The main result of the paper shows that at the European level, one of the most important objectives for the apparel industry is to assure EU–China trade feasible barrier export instruments to develop efficiently the bilateral exports.

Keywords

Introduction

The apparel industry is important for European Union (EU) and China because it creates new jobs, and a lot of people from these countries have a correct chance in carrier beginning, especially women. The industry contributes considerably to the unemployment eradication, promoting the occupation rising in China and the EU too. Speaking about luxury fashion goods and speaking about usually range goods, this industry comes to meet one of the most important human needs, respectively, dressing people. In the last years, EU–China relations are a result of the common commercial policy of the EU and the rising of the Chinese economy.

The decrease in EU exports, in the 2001–2019 period, affected the Romanian textile industry export, especially articles of apparel and accessory sectors. Even Romanian exports have a small growth in this sense, the rising is insignificant in rapport with production. These are happening because a lot of articles of apparel and accessories are produced in Romania and commercialized by other EU countries such as Italy, France, Germany, and so on. The common perception in the EU is that the rising trade with China had been negative for textiles and clothing, people preferring the Chinese products because of their cheap prices. The only sector that resists in the textile and clothing industry bilateral trade is the articles of apparel and accessories, especially the fashion industry. This is because the Chinese still put forward the European fashion industry, more than America and others.

Articles of apparel and accessory export analysis between the EU, implicit Romania, and China; it is important because in the last period, for example, the first semester of 2016, bilateral trade had been marked by significant rises in manufacturing, especially textiles and clothing. Data for the first semester of 2016, comparatively with the same period of 2015, are presented by the European Commission: Directorate – General for Trade1 shows that EU clothing industry exports in China had raised by 18.6%, this sector sharing 5.6% of total EU exports to China. Even exports from other sectors, such as fuels and mining products, power generating machinery, non-electrical machinery, and so no, had declined in 2012–2015 period, the EU clothing industry exports to China have increased by 65.55%, from 839 €M to 1,389 €M in the analyzed period [1]. Between 2016 and 2019, the exports’ volumes from China to EU increased significantly with 25.27% (from 341,742,697 $M in 2016 to 428,131,103 $M in 2019).

Data about Chinese market clothing, especially fashion and luxury, show increasing demand. With 1.3 billion people and rapid economic growth, China becomes the highest consumer for textile and clothing [2].

Problem formulation

The research aims to propose solutions for EU–China apparel trade relations. The main objectives are connected by bilateral export development and trade barriers, namely, tariff (import), non-tariff (standards, financial information, and sanitary and phytosanitary), and investment (communications, transport, and banking) are generally available for all trade Chinese relations. Regarding the tariff barrier, World Trade Organization (WTO) postulates that imports are subjects of tariff reduction.

The causes of EU apparel export decline, especially Romanian, in bilateral trade with China and are multiple and varied. The challenge of the paper is to propose some solutions for increasing EU and Romanian apparel export in relation to China and developing fashion production centers in the EU and Romania for Chinese demand. The apparel export EU, respectively Romania, in China is influenced by some factors that should be solved. General barriers, applicable to all the countries exporting to China, are tariff restrictions, especially for products imported from countries where China does not a specific trade agreement, non-tariff obstacles. Specific for EU, issues to be covered by an agreement with China, topics will be practicing the standardization disarray of customs administration, the safety of the products until they reach their destination, the incoherence of barrier fiches, lack transparency of the licensing procedure, Chinese laws and procedures referring to international standards, low level of Intellectual Property Rights. Considering that China represents a strong opportunity export market for EU products, especially clothing industry, the European Commission and governments of the community area are interested in resolving the foregoing reminded problems, especially enactments of the EU–China Investment Agreement. In this sense, the EU is trying to develop special bilateral trade relations, and soon will be finalized the comprehensive investment agreement between the EU and China. The agreement is focused on market access opportunities for both partners, developing common regulations for environment and transparency, simplifying the licensing and procedure authorization, and special settlements for the labor market [3].

Officials, and the rest of the EU and Chinese public and private community, consider that for developing bilateral commerce, both have to become more business-friendly by liquidating trade barriers [4].

Special for apparel Romanian exports to China, specific for the luxury clothing industry, the most important problems remain the market size and the Chinese preferences for brands coming from another EU country. In this regard, it should be mentioned that EU fashion exports to China are dominated by brands from Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and so on. Thereby, high-end market brands accepted by the Chinese are coming from Italy (Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Salvatore Ferragamo), France (Cerutti 1881, Chanel, Dior), Germany (Hugo Boss), and UK (Dunhill); and the middle/lowend brands are coming from Germany (Adidas), Netherland (Tommy Hilfiger), Spain (Zara), and Sweden (H&M) [2].

Considering that the Chinese consumer market and preferences are quickly transforming [5], luxury being the target, Romanian apparel retailers should promote connections with the European brands mentioned [6]. Therefore, a strong objective for the Romanian clothing industry is to be in line with the European fashion luxury market. Insufficient support from the Romanian government represents another barrier to apparel exports in China. Solutions will be presented in this article, application of these is remaining at the desideratum level.

Experimental
Methods

The paper develops and assesses the apparel bilateral trade between EU and China from 2001 to 2019 in the context of world export. The accessory of the apparel and accessories industry holds more than 3% of world export. Taking into account apparel industry analysis, the article offers a current and future situation picture of this sector. The research is exploratory and statistics calculus-oriented. To cover the dynamics of the apparel industry, the methods used present a multi-method approach, utilizing primary and secondary research through exploratory data from the official website regarding the apparel industry, as EU Statistics (EuroStat), International Trade Centre, which is a support platform for the United Nations (UN), WTO and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Based on the statistical calculus, the paper offers a longitudinal view on the apparel industry in trade relations between the EU, especially Romania, and China, offering new ways of bilateral commerce development. In principle, the analysis for the quantitative part of the paper is univariate, supplemented by bivariate for the qualitative one. In addition, with these types of research, this article had been used a variety of secondary sources – particularly journals, books, and reports on the apparel industry.

The author collected information from the reminded websites, selecting the comparative analysis trade relations (export and import) for EU and Romanian data with China. Collected data have been processed in Excel and SPSS, establishing the percentages and the main tendencies. The method of data analysis was exploratory, selecting, comparing, and collecting the information from the reminded websites. The author used simple descriptive statistics to establish the central tendencies of the analyzed data. As a quantitative analysis, the author used time series to perform the main tendencies during the analyzed period.

Data

Data for total trade show that in 2001–2015 period, world exports grew up by 166.65% (10,189,588,633 $M – million), while EU loses 6.9% (2,923,011,551 $M) in decline from 39.7% (2,426,948,507 $M) to 32.8% (5,349,960,058 $M). In the period of 2016–2019, world export increased by 17.46% and in the EU by 17.45%. EU is one of the most powerful regions of the world, which constantly fails in imposing at the international trade. Some European specialists postulate that 2004, 2007, and 2013 integration waves disturb the EU development “fly.” Others assume that the new waves give a new breath in developing the economy of the first EU country members. The future history will display the rightlessness of these postulates. In the meantime, with the first position in the world and emerging countries, China's accession is visible and relevant. This country changed definitely the economic path of world history. Its rates rising about 10% (2,015,757,713 $M), from 4.4% (2,66,098,209 $M) in 2001 to 14% (2,281,855,922 $M) in 2015, placed China from the sixth position in 2001 to the first position in 2015, in the 233 countries world export top. In the context of EU decreasing, Romania had a good situation in world export top, rising from 53 to 42 position, with 0.2% (49,220,054 $M) in the period of 2001–2015, from 0.2% (11,384,994 $M) in 2001 to 0.4% in 2015 (60,605,048 $M). In the EU export top, Romania raising its position from 18 in 2001 to 16 in 2015. At the beginning of the period 2001/2002, Romania increasing in world export by 22%, but at the end of 2014/2015, a decrease in −13% shows a dramatic reduction in its world commerce mapping [6]. Data keep its trends for the 2016–2019 period.

Total trade with goods for EU with other regions/countries presents bilateral trade EU–China in top of the commerce and investment ascension, over the relationship with the USA, India.

Bilateral trade EU–China shows that Chinese imports from the EU raise from 36,418,691 $M (2001) to 2,09,324,993 $M (2015), meaning about 474.77%, under the Chinese imports media of 590.47%. Between 2016 and 2019, Chinese imports from EU increased by 32.87%.

Data for the apparel industry, in the Harmonized Standards (HS) codification, are referring to the group 61 “Articles of apparel and accessories, knit or crochet” and 62 “Articles of apparel and accessories, not knit or crochet”. These groups are dedicated to clothing textile and industry, especially the fashion industry. As mentioned above, these two groups share about 3% of the world export. From 2001 to 2015, the apparel industry decreases in world export about −8%. The most important cause of this decrease is the overproduction of the apparel industry.

In the period of 2001–2015, the articles of apparel and accessories, knit or crochet (61 group), attend constantly the 16 positions in the world export top. Related to the world export volume in 2001, the apparel industry has a value of 82,069,502 $M, meaning 1.7%. Related to the world export volume from 2015, the world export rate had decreased to 1.4%, meaning 2,24,547,280 $M. In the period of 2016–2019, world export volume for this group increased, meaning that has been reinvigorated. Data show that this increase was in value of 13.93% (from 2,14,913,997 $M in 2016 to 2,44,859,479 $M in 2019).

The 62 group articles of apparel and accessories, not knit or crochet, decrease in world export top from position 13 (2001) to 15 (2015). Still, in rates, it increases from 1.3% (1,02,790,822 $M in 2001) to 1.4% (2,25,093,735 $M in 2015). In the period of 2016–2019, world export for this group increased with 11.23% (from 2,14,162,175 $M in 2016 to 2,38,223,061 $M in 2019). EU decreases in world export from 31.6% (32,443,665 $M) to 26.5% (47,941,877 $M). In the period of 2016–2019, EU increased world export for this group with 19.84% (from 60,339,068 $M in 2016 to 72,310,458 $M in 2019).

Results and discussion
EU–China trade development. Evidence from the apparel industry

According to problem formulation, results are connected to the main tendencies in bilateral EU–China trades and to barriers are tariff (import), non-tariff (standards, financial information, and sanitary and phytosanitary), and investment (communications, transport, and banking) barriers are in general available for all trade Chinese relations.

The main results regarding tendencies for the HS group, 61 EU–China relations, show that in the EU top exported countries to China, Romania decreases its position from 15th to 18th. Still, Romania has risen its export about 1,151.83% from 1,03,760 $M in 2001 to 12,98,895 $M in 2015. Between 2016 and 2019, Romania increases its export to China with 2.51% (from 1,359,056 $M in 2016 to 1,393,246 $M in 2019). In percentages, Romania strengthened European exports, being in 12th position in the top of EU exporters to China. But, compared with other EU countries, like Poland or Slovakia, Romania must work hard on intrinsic export strategy. Even the values of the trade had increased, because of the world export boom, the rates had decreased. The same situation is encountered with the EU and Romanian levels, different from China's level. Otherwise, EU is decreasing in world export from 27.2% (22,281,988 $M in 2001) to 21.4% (47,941,877 $M in 2015). In the period of 2016–2019, EU world exports increased with 24.94% (51,241,201 $M in 2016 to 64,021,978 $M in 2019). The most competitive countries are Germany, Italy, and France, which produce in the east and selling in all parts of the world. In this period, Romania decreases in apparel world export from 0.8% (6,69,139 $M) to 0.3% (7,77,358 $M), having in 2015 position 36th in the world top exported countries and 12 in EU. In period of 2016–2019, Romania decreased in export volume with 8.85% (from 7,57,419 $M to 6,90,367 $M). China has risen significantly, from 4.4% (13,455,949 $M in 2001) to 14% (83,842,271 $M in 2015), being pole position for the entire period. Instead, in the period of 2016–2019, China decreased with 4.78% (from 75,026,959 $M in 2016 to 71,440,138 $M in 2019) [7].

For the HS group, 62 EU–China relations, statistics shows that some countries are leaders for apparel industry, namely, Italy, Germany, France, and Poland. Romania decreases in world export from 2% (20,65,992 $M) to 1% (22,69,170 $M), in 2015 being situated at 19th position on world and 9th position on EU level. In period of 2016–2019, Romania decreased world export for this group with 7.84% (from 21,61,445 $M in 2016 to 19,91,829 $M in 2019). China, placed in the first position on the entire period, had increased significantly the export rate from 18.4% (18,952,050 $M) in 2001 to 34.9% (78,506,716 $M) in 2015. In period of 2016–2019, China decreased world export for this group with 8.20% (from 72,766,739 $M in 2016 to 66,798,310 $M to 2019) [7].

With reference to the tariff barrier, WTO postulates that imports are subjects of tariff reduction. In the same, descending trend fits import tariff on apparels, which lowered from 14–23% to 7–10% and import tariff on shoes, which goes down from 22–24% to 12%. Still, the quality of Chinese apparel industry imports could be developed through more stable agreements in import duties and taxes related to foreign trade and business [7]. Statistics keeps its trend in the 2016–2019 period.

Standardization in China needs to update, especially in awarding certifications speed. Certification in China, for all products including apparel, takes a lot of time and money, which is why many foreign investors are discouraged. According to Xu [8], The Seconded European Standardization Expert in China (SESEC) project proposes to Chinese administration some solutions as “accelerate the pace of Chinese standards go global and strengthen the foundation and ensure the sustainable development of standardization”.

Financial information, especially financial education, represents one of the main challenges in China. Considering internet censorship in China, financial information is truncated and incomplete. This problem is solved only by exercising freedom of information by the Chinese government. Otherwise, making and sharing promotional materials are too expensive and no apparel companies support these investments.

Sanitary and phytosanitary obstacles of the Chinese market are remarkable due to China's important non-tariff barriers affecting the apparel sector. Not the quality of the imported products is the problem but the non-predictability and length of the application process. Many of the application data are interest to be lost by Chinese authorities. A centralized database should resolve the applications of sanitary and phytosanitary threats.

Communications, transport, and banking are the major investment difficulties in China. Potential investors are subject to communications and banking abuse, the information slowly runs affecting the businesses. In the apparel industry, the celerity of the information is more than important. At the same time, transport in some Chinese districts is decelerating the apparel industry in China. Liberalization of the investment barrier would be in Chinese interests.

As shown earlier, goods trade with the USA is linear or in decline, while EU–China significantly rises in the last time. European retailers are developing their businesses in China, according to rising incomes and population increase [4]. In this context, at the European level, one of the most important objectives is to assure for EU–China trade relations sufficient defense instruments.

Evidence from the Romanian apparel industry

To increase their chances of Romanian products entering the Chinese market, the Romanian Centre for Trade and Investment Promotion (CRPCIS) conducted a study to discover the categories of products that have export potential on the Chinese market. Thus, it was observed that during the period of 2005–2010, the main products exported by Romania on the Chinese market were nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery, machinery and electrical equipment, copper and copper articles, wood, charcoal, and articles of wood and apparel and clothing accessories, other than knitted or crocheted, representing 60.1% of Romania's exports to China in 2010. It was found that many Romanian products have the potential for exporting in China and to promote and develop the delivery of Romanian products in China and for an increase in the market share of these products, it should be considered among the priority products for export and for reformulating the export strategy of Romania on that relationship [9].

Among solutions for all the Chinese importers, specific for Romanian producers, the author, in accordance with Romania's National Export Strategy (NES) for 2014–2020, proposes clustering development and apparel companies financing.

In clustering, Romania has a strong activity on the international level. Romanian clusters, of which 15 are major and built-in by 17 enterprises, have in 2012 an average turnover of 250 €M and exports in amount of 200 €M, enrolment being of 5,000 employers. In 2012, the apparel industry has shared more than 12% of the clustering industry in Romania, being the most important. The textile is dominating the North-East and South-East clusters, while the technical textile controls more Bucharest-Ilfov branches.

Therefore, the apparel sector must be targeted support of supply centers, a national fashion institute, a national office style, and a Romanian brands catalog. Other actions to encourage the apparel companies are information, training, and consultancy in the area of strategic skills required by managers in the sector; internal efforts to increase direct exports (to switch from outsourcing “system,” with a gross annual average/average increase in 5%) by encouraging companies to modernize apparel creation (design) and retail (e.g., by creating a center for fashion and design and more oriented e-business and e-commerce); current improving efficiency in the value chain, especially in the storage, transport and logistics documentation, training and better cooperation between manufacturers and service providers in the sector; implementation of environmental management (ISO 14001), increased production levels at an annual rate of 3.4% (2.4% in the leather footwear sub-sector); quantitative growth of supply of raw materials by increasing production of fiber.

The important challenge in the apparel industry is to create a value chain that the universities, research institutes, and consulting firms to develop the market strategically.

Internationally, to promote export, it is proposed to attach Romanian producers to international fairs, mainly in Paris, New York, Tokyo where the Chinese importers stand in line, to encourage firms that obtain results/orders by participating in fairs, granting facilities to later editions, like subsidizing showrooms and to support economic missions abroad – contacts, appointments with customers from France, USA, China, Russia [10].

Regarding apparel companies financing recommended to sustain the relations between Romanian and EU apparel brands dealing with China. The Romanian government has to finance local brands like APACA, which produces clothes for EU brands dealing with China, namely, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Versace, Boggi, Patrizia Pepe, YSL, Ted Baker, Stefanel or H&M. Other example is Martelli Europe, a firm established in Buzău by an Italian businessman in 2000, which producing jeans and other clothing items for Prada and Diesel. The apparel industry in Moldova is dominated by Rhapsody Conf from Botosani, which has contracts with Armani, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Zara, Zenia, Margiela, Hugo Boss, and Massimo Dutti.

These EU brands dealing with Romanian companies should be encouraged to produce clothes, especially luxury fashion, in Romania, because of the employees’ low costs and professionalism.

The apparel industry in the relation between UE and China is developing under the auspices of idea that circular economy has become important for both policymaking [11].

CONCLUSION AND PROPOSALS

The main conclusion of the paper shows that at the European level, one of the most important objectives for the apparel industry is to assure EU–China trade feasible barrier export instruments to develop efficiently the bilateral exports. This can be done by applying circular economy desiderata. A general solution for circular economy applied in any industry, specific to apparel suppose, that under current conditions, the need to move from the linear economy model to the circular economy model is proven to be a paramount necessity. The circular economy is a must in the apparel industry, on one hand, because of the urgent need for optimal use of resources, thus ensuring both the reduction of dependence on primary resources, the creation of a higher number of jobs than in non-renewable energy and energy industries as well as environmental protection and on the other hand, because the need to reintroduce used products into the circuit, to avoid/reduce their transformation into waste and to ensure implementation of that optimal waste management in which residual waste is reduced to a minimum absolute – the waste of one industry to be the raw material of another industry [12].

To apply circular economy in the EU–China relation, companies from the apparel industry must [2, 13,14,15] differentiate their products; take advantage of the free trade, zero-tariff scheme agreement; and integrate the industrial chain vertically and horizontally to make the pipeline more effective and hence enjoy cost savings; in light of the changes in market and fashion trends, pay more attention to non-cost factors such as one-package buying, the application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in design and pattern making, speeding up the supply of samples, providing a variety of products and services, and enhance credit; make good use of their proximity and accessibility to the market; update their product/process/quality through advanced facilities, online systems, digital technology, and so on and improve management levels. Governments of exporting countries should take measures to strengthen the infrastructure, enhance the efficiency of transportation and communication, and speed up customs clearance; conduct training and education programs for workers and managers; cooperate inter-regionally and intra-regionally; restructure textile complexes, integrate the value chain horizontally and vertically, and reinforce supporting industries; maintain political and economic stability [2, 13,15,16].

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