Brussels bureau


A new survey shows that at least 71 percent of European industry chiefs believe that China will be level or ahead of Europe in technological terms in 10 years’ time.

The answer, according to most industrialists and the European Commission, is to increase the competitiveness of European products.

But is it realistic to even contemplate bringing down the cost of production in Europe to that of China and India?

Mark Spelman, Managing Director of Accenture, believes there are many keys to solving the puzzle: “The first thing to recognise is that actually Europe is not homogeneous. Europe has got very different levels of competitiveness. Clearly cost is a major issue, but there is also the quality factor. I think Europe has to play to its strengths. It isn’t just about costs; it’s about cost and quality and brand, and an integrated value chain.”

If quality of the product is not to be compromised, then the only corner that could be cut is worker’s wages. Is this the meaning of competitiveness? Not according to Patrick Itschert, Deputy Secretary General of the European Trade Union: “Nothing against competitiveness, but our aim is that Europeans cannot be brought [down] to the standards and living wages of the Chinese.”

The EBS is an annual forum that attracts more than 1,500 participants from over 60 countries, including European commissioners, Heads of State, CEOs and international financing institutions.

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