France considers excessive European industrial dependence on Asia “unacceptable” | Economy

The coronavirus crisis has shown the “unacceptable industrial gaps” in Europe, something that makes it “vulnerable” to Asia, especially China, but also to the United States, denounced this Monday the French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire.

Paris calls for more joint efforts by the EU to solve a problem that, the French government maintains, is not mere chauvinism but a matter of national and European security. This has been recently demonstrated by the severe shortage of electronic components that has slowed down car production, Le Maire recalled after a video conference with the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

“Our dependence on electronic components on Asia is excessive and unacceptable, it makes us vulnerable and weakens our production chains,” lamented the minister from Paris. “Today there are tens of thousands of vehicles that are not produced because electronic components are missing. We are talking about thousands of hours of work lost by our workers and our industries ”, he recalled, referring to the stoppages that some Volkswagen and Mercedes plants in Germany or Seat and Ford in Spain have suffered since January. This shortage is explained by the inability of Asian semiconductor manufacturers to supply demand, multiplied by the boom experienced by other preferred industries in the sector, such as computers, video game consoles or smartphones, precisely because of the closure to which the coronavirus has confined much of the planet this last year.

According to Le Maire, France will promote in Brussels the “acceleration of the creation of a European subsidiary of electronic components”. The idea, he explained, is to approve, as soon as this year, a second European project of common interest (PIC) dedicated to electronic components similar to the one already approved for electric batteries. France has identified 18 projects that could be “eligible” for the PIC, said Le Maire who, after speaking with Commissioner Breton, will discuss this matter on Tuesday with his German counterpart, Peter Altmaier, whom he considers an ally in the battle for a greater European industrial sovereignty.

Because this effort should not be limited to chips, stressed the French. Le Maire recalled that the economic reactivation plan presented by his Government in September last year includes the creation, “for the first time in 30 years in France”, of new value chains in sectors such as hydrogen, quantum calculation, intelligence artificial or electric batteries that complement and reinforce traditional bastions of the French industry such as the luxury sector or aeronautics, very disturbed by the coronavirus. Europe, he said, must do the same and bet on new industrial value chains that allow it to “reinforce European independence from China and the United States.”

“We want to be a sovereign continent, industrially powerful, an independent continent from a technological point of view,” he stressed. National and European sovereignty in key sectors of the economy is an idea that France has been pushing since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, in March last year, which revealed European vulnerabilities in sectors such as the medical-pharmaceutical sector, especially in terms of masks, a product that was greatly scarce in the country and in the rest of Europe in the first months of the health crisis, or respirators.

“There will be a before and after the coronavirus on the organization of the world economy”, said in March 2020 Le Maire, who already then called to “reflect on a better organization of the value chain, on a relocation of certain strategic activities , particularly in health ”. A few days later, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, ordered “full independence” in terms of masks before the end of 2020. “There are goods and services that must be beyond the laws of the market (…) We must regain control, we need to build a France, a sovereign Europe, a France and a Europe that firmly hold their destiny in their hands, ”he said during one of his first speeches to the nation dedicated to the pandemic.