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IP/07/1293

Brussels, 10th September 2007

Inaugural meeting of High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry

The European Commission has today launched the work of the High Level Group (HLG) on the Competitiveness of the Chemicals Industry. The group consists of senior policy makers from the public and from the private sector together with representatives of civil society. It will examine the factors that determine the competitiveness of the European chemicals industry compared to its competitors. It will conduct an economic and statistical analysis of the factors that determine the structural changes taking place in the chemicals industry and will deal with questions linked to the sustainable development of the industry. The group is expected to formulate a set of sector-specific policy recommendation by spring 2009.

European Commission Vice President, Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "The EU chemicals industry is a world leader today and makes an enormous contribution to growth and jobs in Europe. However, there are clear signs that it is facing unprecedented challenges both from the effects of global change and the expectations of our citizens. With this initiative we aim to ensure the right framework conditions for the chemicals industry to continue operating and investing in the EU on a sustainable basis."

The initiative forms part of the EU's partnership for growth and jobs. The establishment of this Group was first announced in the Communication on Industrial Policy of October 2005 as one of the sector-specific industrial policy initiatives (see IP/05/1225) and IP/07/1007).

The HLG will be chaired by Vice-President Günter Verheugen and in addition to the participation of Commissioners whose competences cover key issues to be examined by the Group comprises also high-level representatives of Member States, regions, the EU chemicals industry and its downstream industries, academia, trade unions, environmental Non Governmental Organisations (NGO's), and consumer organisations. The European Parliament has also been invited to nominate members of the group. To address specific questions and feed reflections, the HLG will seek expertise or contributions from ad-hoc groups of experts.

Background

The chemicals industry plays a key role for the EU. It is a major industry in its own right and at the same time an enabling industry that provides the necessary materials for all the other industrial sectors. With a turnover of € 436 billion (2005) the EU accounts for about 30 % of world chemicals sales. There are approximately 31,000 chemical and pharmaceutical companies in the EU and they employ a total staff of about 1.9 million, or 6% of the overall workforce in the manufacturing industry. SME's in the EU’s chemical industry account for 30% of sales and 37% of employment.

The EU chemicals industry (excluding pharmaceuticals) is the second leading manufacturing sector in terms of value added per employee. In 2005, the EU chemical industry exported an amount of € 110 and imported € 72 resulting in a trade surplus of € 38 billion. With this the chemicals industry accounted for 26% of the total EU manufacturing trade surplus.

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