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Europe IT trade forum on the cards

Lobbying, yes: buying, no

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Keith Warburton, director of UK trade group the Personal Computer Association, will tomorrow unleash his plans to take over the world - well, Europe at least.

He wants to expand his current powers and launch a trade body for the European IT industry, using the platform of the Integrator Forum Europe 2000. The aims of the grandly-named European Federation for the IT Industry are still in the early stages, but it is hoped it will give Warburton a chance to vent his spleen at the government - both in the UK and Brussels - on issues affecting system builders.

It has also been suggested that the association may use its muscle to be a pan-European buying group, getting cheaper prices for volume orders from manufacturers.

Membership will be open to manufacturers, distributors and publishers, as well as system builders in Europe, and the organisation has so far enlisted the help of four sponsors, including Microsoft and AMD. Annual membership fees are expected to be between E2500 and E7500.

The idea has received a mostly positive reception at the Forum. Between rubbing in their sun cream and feasting on the casino delights of Monte Carlo, attendees seem to agree with the idea of a starting a lobbying group in theory, but are sceptical about other issues the group hopes to achieve.

"I think the lobbying is a good idea - and the group would give a stronger voice to discuss industry issues with suppliers and vendors," said Sukh Rayat, Avnet MD for Western Europe, who said his company would be interested in joining. It should increase the awareness in the minds of manufacturers as to what the issues are, especially if they know the group represents the views of the whole industry.

However, the idea of a joint-purchasing European organisation was not so popular.

Rait described the idea as "simply not manageable", while Richard Austin, MD of UK system builder Evesham Micros and a former board member of the PCA, said: "It would be useful for lobbying or for interraction with other system builders, but as a buying group - forget it, it's just not feasible."

Warburton could talk for Europe on the issue, and indeed would have done given half a chance. Instead, here's the gist of what he plans to say tomorrow: "More and more, decisions taken in Brussels will affect our daily life and our business life, and if we fail to ensure that we have an industry voice then we will suffer.

"But we will do more than just represent our industry to Brussels, we can help to define standards, perhaps for e-commerce, perhaps for standards of support and trade, perhaps technical standards." ®

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