The Portuguese government is taking a more pro-active role than the Italian one - for the moment. Responding to the requests presented last year by the related industry associations, Apiccaps and ATP, last month it announced an €850 million aid program for the textile, clothing and footwear industries, which together employ 29 percent of the country’s industrial workers.

Called Padim, the Portuguese program consists of a series of 23 measures divided into four segments:

- Supporting the financial system by securing access to bank credit for the sector, including export credit and refinancing of the companies.

- Much as it has done before, supporting investments in export promotion.

- Supporting mergers and acquisitions as well as investments in innovation to make companies more competitive.

- Promoting the training of the workforce and a better qualification of the managers.

While it has yet to put out a specific program, the Italian government has indicated that it is willing to help the entire fashion system, in response to the recent joint requests of the representatives of the textile, clothing, footwear, leather, leathergoods and eyewear industries, which together employ about one million people. Last month Claudio Scajola, Italy’s minister for economic development, mentioned a series of measures that the government is contemplating, such as:

- Creating a governmental fund of €1.5 billion to guarantee loans to small and medium enterprises for the next three years, including €10.5 million specifically allocated to the shoe and leather sector.

- The possibility of granting tax credits for expenses incurred in the manufacture of prototypes, as for other R&D expenses.

- The allocation of €120 million to help companies comply with the new anti-toxic regulations of the European REACH program.

- Supporting projects for the development of new eco-friendly and healthy products with an aid package of €50 million.

- An increase in the funds that can be used to subsidize the cost of temporary layoffs from €1 billion to €8 billion a year, applying this typically Italian program to trainees for the first time.

Italian industry officials reacted positively to the minister’s announcement, but reserved final judgment until the details of the program are finalized. Discussions are taking place to this effect between government officials and representatives of Anci and other industry associations.