Article by Jean-Claude Juncker published in politico.eu — 9-3-2017 (link).
As EU leaders gather in Brussels Thursday, they will take stock of Europe’s efforts to create jobs, generate growth and improve competitiveness. European industry has a key role to play, as the largest economic activity representing almost 20 percent of Europe’s gross value added and more than 15 percent of our employment.
My father was a proud steelworker. Like in many other places in Europe, the local factory was the glue that held our community together. It was the largest employer and the fuel for the local economy.
The factories of today look different to what my father knew. And yet, Europe’s industry remains just as important. Our industries are strong leaders in global markets. They provide employment for more than 50 million workers in Europe. They include brilliant innovators and entrepreneurs who are seizing new opportunities.
Our industry’s strength has always been its ability to adapt and innovate. In a competitive and fast-moving global environment, we must draw on our strengths: our deep pool of talent, our educated workforce, our traditions of innovation and not least 500 million consumers in the single market.
It is especially important that our factories are at the cutting edge of clean technologies and energy efficiency so they can reduce costs and be less dependent on third country suppliers. They must embrace the opportunities provided by the blurring of the traditional lines between products, services and the digital economy.
I can see no scenario whatsoever in which economic nationalism can be consistent with the idea of Europe …
We must also collectively invest in our people, equipping them with the skills for a changing workplace and empowering them with social rights fit for changing employment models. Our regions and their old industrial sites should be transformed, not just to create expensive riverside apartments but also to create new jobs for local workers.
The European Commission’s industrial strategy is supporting this transitionto a modern, clean and fair economy, with a comprehensive and results-oriented approach across different policy areas. Industry should seize the opportunities and make full use of the EU’s investment solutions — in particular, the Investment Plan for Europe, what some call the “Juncker Plan.”
This plan has provided finance for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region to support its move to a low-carbon economy. It has helped Polish steel wholesalers introduce new services and create new jobs. It has supported the construction of a new bio-product mill in Finland, as well as Europe’s first facility for recycling and remelting titanium metal. Whether it is 3D printing, bio-based plastics for packaging or new systems to cut water use in the chemical industry, the EU will continue to fund and invest in pioneering innovation and European industry.
We will also continue to need investment from abroad. And that requires us to remain open for business, and keep foreign markets open to European business.
But I am not a naïve free-trader. We need to continue to show our teeth, taking measures against unfair trade practices like we did when imposing anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel, sweetcorn from Thailand, or biodiesel from the U.S., Indonesia and Argentina.
I hope … we can have an honest and open debate on how much the EU can and should do to support industry.
We will also continue to use the possibilities within state aid law to support research and green investments. And we will promote our strategic autonomy and industrial strength in the fields of space and defense, rather than rely on the U.S., China or Russia.
With more than 50 percent of EU businesses already part of global value chains, we cannot afford to revert to isolationism and protectionism. Our industry and economy depend on free, fair and sustainable international trade. Take the recent trade agreement reached with Canada, one of our most like-minded partners. It is the most progressive trade deal we have ever signed, and it will have a transformative effect. Exports to Canada already support around 900,000 European jobs, and by removing tariffs we will help our businesses save more than €500 million a year.
Last week, I presented a White Paper on the Future of Europe offering avenues for unity for the 27 members of the European Union who will remain after the U.K’s departure. I hope that on this basis we can have an honest and open debate on how much the EU can and should do to support industry and to harness globalization, for example in the areas of fiscal, education or social policy.
One thing is clear to me: I can see no scenario whatsoever in which economic nationalism can be consistent with the idea of Europe or with the prosperity of its people. I believe in a Europe with a common, robust industrial policy, which ensures success even in challenging times. This policy plays a central role in the Europe that I am fighting for.
Jean-Claude Juncker is president of the European Commission.