Buzzella: Too many EU rules for chemistry. We need a plan for the industry

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«In 2022, for the first time, Europe has become a net importer (i.e. imports exceed exports, ed.) of chemical products. In 2023 the same happened with the car. The trade balance numbers tell us that European manufacturing is losing competitiveness.” The role of president of Federchimica amplifies the meaning of Francesco Buzzella’s words, given that 95% of manufactured products contain chemistry. And therefore if the competitiveness of chemistry declines, that of industry tout court declines.
President Buzzella, the loss of competitiveness of the industry will make us poorer but will it at least help save the environment?
I’m afraid not. It certainly forces an ever-increasing dependence on other areas of the world. The numbers also say this. In Italy between 2019 and 2023, in the presence of a significant worsening of the trade balance, the share of imports of chemical products from China almost doubled, reaching 11%. And this has not contributed to an improvement in global environmental conditions. If European ambitions do not go hand in hand with industrial competitiveness, we will import more and more from countries with lower environmental standards and we will lose investments, production and jobs. Without reaching global environmental objectives because we will become importers of large quantities of CO2. If we do not regain competitiveness we will become poorer and will not do any good for the environment.

In this context, is the blockade of the Suez Canal yet another lesson for everyone?

It is the latest in a long series of shocks whose origin is not economic but risks having serious repercussions. The costs of sea transport are increasing across the board, not just on that route: in January sea freight rates showed an average increase of 61% with peaks of 140% for the Shanghai-Genoa and Shanghai-Rotterdam routes. In the event of a prolonged blockade, the repercussions on energy and raw material costs – for our businesses and the entire downstream system – would be inevitable and significant. In 2022, the chemical industry moved 1.7 million tonnes of chemical products between imports and exports on container ships. Lengthening routes and increasing costs also lead to a drastic reduction in the reliability of delivery times, difficulties in scheduling production and loss of competitiveness.

Have the EU’s choices contributed to weakening our industry?

Our competitiveness depends, to a large extent, on the political and regulatory choices of the European Union, given that now 80% of our regulations come from Brussels, in the form of directives and regulations that do not necessarily take into account the efforts made by the industry and the lack of attractiveness for investments, including international ones, that certain decisions have.

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