Competitive adjustment is the only possible response of distributive trade to the challenges of the 21st century, according to Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner responsible for enterprise policy, commerce and distribution. Speaking at the plenary meeting of the Committee on Commerce and Distribution (CCD), held in Brussels on 26 April 1996, Mr. Papoutsis stressed that the increases in productivity achieved by the use of new technologies would have to be channelled into high-quality services for end users, thus enhancing the value added of goods. This course of action would offer businesses new prospects for growth, benefit consumers and create scope for more jobs. Distributive trade is the second largest employer in the European Union after industry. It accounts for approximately 15% of all jobs, 13% of value added and a third of all businesses, including a much greater proportion of SMEs than the rest of the economy. Mr. Papoutsis emphasized that, in parallel with all sectors of the European economy, distributive trade constantly faces new challenges. In particular, information and communications technologies are every day revolutionizing the storage facilities, transport, marketing and management of European industry and businesses. The Commissioner stressed that the European Union must devise strategies for responding to these developments and create a political framework enabling businesses to respond competitively to them.