Tough times for EU chemicals

C&I Issue 19, 2009

Christian Jourquin, ceo of Solvay and European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) president, told delegates at the Cefic Global Chemical Industry European Convention in Lisbon, Portugal, that the EU chemical industry is ‘facing an unprecedented challenge’. ‘We cannot just be satisfied with green shoots,’ he said. ‘We are not out of the recession.’

Jourquin went on to say that, while there are tentative signs of recovery, it may be years before the EU chemical industry returns to its January 2008 performance. What he is looking for now is a long term vision for the industry from governments to create an environment that will enable chemicals to flourish in Europe.

Theo Jan Simons, global chemical industry lead at Accenture, speaking at a forum on the downturn, agreed that the chemical industry is facing difficult times. He noted that EU chemical output, relative to GDP, has seen an accelerated decline. He attributed this to the production of more durable products, greater recycling and companies moving production facilities outside the EU.

Simons said that to counteract this trend companies ‘need to take growth and sustainability to the next level’. Pointing to differences across the world in resources, regulation and climate levies, Simons added: ‘The world is not flat; there is simply no such thing as fair competition.’ He also warned of a looming ‘war for talent’ with most engineering graduates now being educated outside the developed economies.

Jourquin said that climate change remains the world’s biggest problem and that it is here that the EU chemical industry can excel. ‘We should not forget that there can be no low carbon future without the chemical industry.’ 

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