Cefic needs stronger voice, Europe chems to move to specialty – president

Jonathan Lopez

12-Jan-2016

CEO Jean-Pierre ClamadieuLONDON (ICIS)–The appointment of a new director general (DG) at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) will help raise the profile of Europe’s chemicals sector at a time when the environment for the industry continues to harden, the trade body’s president said on Tuesday.

Jean Pierre Clamadieu, who is also CEO of Belgium-headquartered chemical major Solvay, admitted Cefic “should be more effective” in communicating the point of view of the chemical industry and what it can bring to a more innovative economy.

The trade group recently appointed Marco Mensink as its new DG, effective 1 May.

“Probably not enough has been done [to get that point of view across]. When we looked at the replacement of [current DG] Hubert [Mandery] we put a strong emphasis in finding someone who could help us voice more clearly [our] concerns but also the opportunities we see in Europe for the chemical industry,” said Clamadieu.

“I accept the fact that we need to challenge ourselves as Cefic and see what we can do better. All this being said, Cefic has been able [so far] to voice the concerns of the chemical industry, but I am the kind of person who think you should always look for improvement.”

However, Clamadieu conceded the environment for European chemicals continues to harden on the back of high energy and feedstock costs, making production of basic chemicals less competitive than in the US.

“In Europe, we need to invest in specialty products. Specialty polymers for example, in which Solvay has a strong position and where a lot of research and development [R&D] takes place, is a good place to continue innovating and producing,” he said.

The president of Cefic also urged EU member countries to put in place reforms in their labour markets and improve the economic competitiveness of its companies.

The chemical industry would benefit from those reforms and Cefic will make specific efforts to pass the message across “clearly specifying what [chemicals] bring to the table in terms of innovation and overall jobs,” added Clamadieu.

He said the European chemical industry creates directly and indirectly 4m jobs in the region.

Further afield, however, the prospects of the chemical industry are in some countries even bleaker than in Europe.

While Brazil is embroiled in a political and economic crisis, China has slowed down as the country moves towards the New Normal, which will see manufacturing occupying a less prominent place in the country’s economy, being replaced by services and consumer-driven production.

Clamadieu said Brazil needs a government with political momentum and support to develop the necessary reforms to transform the economy.

“This is not the case today. The political crisis means reforms are not done from the competitive standpoint. Probably Brazil’s government today doesn’t have the strength and the momentum to take back control of the situation,” he said.

Cefic’s president was more optimistic about China. Although the adjustment “will be painful, but we don’t see a catastrophe” and said the falls registered on the Chinese equity markets at the start of the year do not reflect the real state of the economy.

“Production in automotive, for example, was good at year-end. The Chinese economy is growing at 6%, [representing] a huge amount of added value injected in the global economy. I’m pretty confident China will continue to be a very important place for chemical companies,” concluded Clamadieu.

Interview article by Jonathan Lopez

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