Here’s why and how to save the French industry

Yves Perrier is President of Amundi and Vice President of Paris Europlace.

Challenges – What will the next industrial revolution be like?

Yves Perrier- The great economic challenge of 21th century is the energy transition to control the evolution of the climate. This is a universal cause; commits our generation to future generations. This energy transition requires a true industrial revolution. It is obviously a question of energy supply: it is a question of replacing fossil fuels, which today represent 80% of the total, with renewable energy. But it also affects products, production methods and value chains.

What could be the strengths of France?

Our country has an important resource to make this change a success: an energy system that is one of the most efficient in terms of both cost price and carbon impact. We owe this to the bold decisions made by Georges Pompidou in 1973 to meet the challenge of energy independence, in the face of the rise in oil prices following the Yom Kippur war. This decision was the construction program for 53 nuclear power plants which were completed in less than 20 years. This energy asset, to the extent that the recent guidelines materialize, can be a lever to respond to what is, in my opinion, the country’s great challenge, namely reindustrialisation.

Is reindustrialisation that important? Our country excels in services, including finance where you made a career …

Without a strong industry, there is no power. Without power there is no sovereignty. Without renewal of the country’s industry there will be no recovery of our public finances and our trade balance. Without renewal of the sector, there will be no reduction of the social fractures that undermine our society.

Who should lead this industrial policy? The state, as in the days of Georges Pompidou?

From my point of view, a new political economy is needed. States and the European Union must strengthen their role in defining the framework of public policies (energy, transport, housing, agriculture) and industrial policies necessary for the transformation of the economy. And companies, which are at the forefront of these transformations, must manage this externality of CO emissions.2that previously did not include.

Isn’t finance the backbone of war to guide this transition? In Amundi, you made it a priority …

Some would like only the financial system to transform the world. This is neither possible nor desirable because it would mean moving from a democratic system to a plutocratic system. However, the financial system has an important role to play, as it allocates capital not only on the basis of financial profitability criteria, but also taking into account industrial and environmental issues. Naturally, it will also be necessary to reconsider the return on capital objectives as defined in the mid-1990s, unsuitable for financing the colossal investments required. Finance must also provide companies with the means to place their strategies in a long-term perspective. Finally, we need to innovate in financing solutions for both businesses and individuals.

Health crisis, war in Europe … What world are we entering?

We are entering a period of great reconfiguration. But I do not believe, like some, that current events mark the end of globalization. On the other hand, it is certain that the framework of the latter will be profoundly changed. What is over is a vision of the world as Fukuyama described it in the early 1990s, that is, a global village dominated by the Western world, in this case above all by the United States, with the same project and the same values.

What place for the Old Continent in the “new world”?

In Europe, if we want to be an autonomous power, we can no longer be satisfied, to use the expression of a German minister, Sigmar Gabriel, of being herbivores in a world of carnivores. We will no longer be able to have an approach to the economy that disregards the strategic interests of the country and Europe. We need to define real industrial policies at the European level – particularly in energy – and review the value chains.

And France?

The weaknesses of France are well known: deindustrialisation, the fragility of our public finances. However, I think our country has enough resources to be a winner in the reconfiguration that will take place. I mentioned the energy sector, but we have to add the big groups that master almost all the key technologies, and last but not least, a financial sector that is the strongest in Europe. Basically, I believe that the real challenge is to reform a pact between businesses, the state and citizens, which, as in the 1960s and 1970s, allows for the mobilization of all the players, each in their own place, around collective projects at the service of the country. I would add that the European project cannot be achieved without a strong France. This pact is the condition for regaining that trust which is undoubtedly what we lack most. Trust us, trust each other, trust a common future. Trust is what feeds optimism, the optimism of the will, what allows you to move mountains.

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