Manufacturers are the backbone of the European economy. Yet companies face more and more challenges that put this strong position at risk. Digitalisation is disrupting business models, challenging the market leadership of established European companies. And China is an increasingly strong global competitor, with a record of acquiring technology manufacturers in the EU.
Finding the best policy approach is problematic. A strong state-driven industrial policy is controversial. In France, promoting national champions is still a priority, whereas in Germany the traditional focus has been on creating the right framework conditions for the ‘Mittelstand’ to thrive.
Ultimately it is up to the European Union and its Member States to create favourable conditions for European world champions to emerge. These could include solidifying the foundations of the single market, daring to invest in innovation, providing access to capital, and assertively pursuing fair and equal trade policies. And the EU also has the potential to show global leadership in promoting responsible business conduct, which could well be companies’ biggest contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Points of discussion included:
- The role of the European Commission and EU Member States in strengthening European industry;
- The arguments for and against state aid and state intervention;
- The role of the Single Market;
- The role of SMEs;
- The impact of digitalising industry.
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