Thank you Lowri,
Mr Vice-President of the Commission, Commissioner,
Dear Kristalina, acting President of the World Bank and good friend of mine, good to have you here,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a real pleasure to be here today. I am always saying this when starting and when addressing an audience, normally it is not true. This time it is true because last year and the year before I was addressing your meeting via video conference. This time I was told by Elżbieta that I had to be here. So I could not escape from that friendly invitation of Elżbieta and Jyrki, and I am happy to be here and to see so many friendly faces.
The diversity and richness of this year's agenda shows how far and wide industrial policies go. They cut across our entire economy and society: from investment to innovation, from skills to space, from clean energy to construction. It was in this spirit that the Commission launched its comprehensive industrial strategy in 2017 that brings everything that we already do together under one roof.
This is about preparing us for the future. Our economy is transforming before our eyes and the world around us is changing faster than ever. And if Europe is to succeed, it cannot afford to fight that transformation. Rather, it must be the first to adapt to it, the first to shape it. And I believe our industry can lead the way.
We have a lot to build on. Europe's industry provides a livelihood for millions. It is a home for some of the world's best innovators and entrepreneurs. And it is the driving force of Europe's continued economic recovery. The numbers speak for themselves. Both the EU and the Euro area are now growing. More than 239 million people are now in work, more than ever before – 12 million of those jobs created since the start of this Commission's mandate. The creation of 12 million jobs is not the merit of this Commission. But if we had lost 12 million jobs, the Commission would be responsible for that. Investment is back, with the Juncker Plan alone helping to trigger more than EUR 375 billion, helping 856,000 small businesses in the process. And industry has been there every step of the way, employing more than 32 million people directly, and many more indirectly: For every manufacturing job, another 2.5 are created across the value chain.
This shows that industry truly drives our economy. But more than that, it helps us punch above our weight on the global stage. It accounts for more than two-thirds of our exports and is one of the main reasons we have partners lining up at our door to secure free trade agreements. Take the agreement with Japan, which came into force last Friday. This is a game changer for our industry. It will open a new marketplace home to 635 million people and a third of the world's GDP. It will save European companies EUR 1 billion in duties every year. And most importantly, it contributes to our principles in areas such as labour, safety, climate and consumer protection becoming the global gold-standard. This is the trade that Europe will stand up for with our like-minded partners around the world. Together, we are redesigning global trade for the modern economy.
But let me be very clear: We are not naïve free traders. We will not trade for the sake of it or compromise on our principles for a quick deal. I cannot accept that those who work hard to make ends meet suffer at the hands of those who dump, de-regulate or distort the market. This is why we have shown our teeth by raising tariffs on cheap steel coming from China or taken a no tolerance approach on the forced transfer of technology. It is why we have modernised our trade defence instruments and have just recently agreed new rules on screening foreign investment in areas that may affect security or public order.
But just as a level playing field in the global market is essential for our industry, so is a level playing field essential at home, in our Single Market. We will always allow competition that is fair for business and ultimately fair for the consumer. We have shown that time and again. We want strong European companies that can compete on the global scene. In nearly 30 years since the first European merger rules came into place, we have approved more than 6,000 deals – and blocked less than 30. This is a message for those who are saying that the Commission is composed ofblind, stupid, stubborn technocrats: 6,000 deals have been approved – only 30 were blocked. This shows that we believe in competition – as long as it is fair for all. We will never play politics or play favourites when it comes to ensuring a level playing field.
This is what allows our entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive. There is no lack of talent, no lack of ideas in Europe – you see this for yourselves with the 23 Young Industry Leaders who have joined us today. Our job is to make sure that we use all the tools we can to make sure they fulfil their potential.
This is why we must also get on with deepening the Single Market, our best asset in this increasingly competitive world. Countless European Councils have called for the completion of the Single Market. It is time we match that rhetoric with delivery on the ground. The Single Market allows businesses all over Europe to work together to create and market new products free from customs and technical barriers. It helps bring down costs, improve the quality of materials and give customers wider choice. But there are still far too many barriers to fulfilling its full potential. We can do better.
In particular, we need to complete the Capital Markets Union as a priority to ensure that industry has access to the finance it needs to innovate and to grow. Overall, we have made 67 proposals to help complete the Single Market, 31 of them still need to be agreed by the co-legislators – Parliament and Council of Ministers. This should be our focus for the weeks and months ahead.
But at the same time, we must also look further ahead. We are in the process of discussing our new long-term budget for 2021-2027. This is about choosing what we want our Union to achieve. This is why the Commission's proposals focused on the areas that matter the most – and where investment can really add value.
The future of Europe's industry will depend on its ability to adapt by investing in new technologies and embracing the digital and ecological transitions. This is why when it comes to industry, we have put our money where our mouth is – right across the board. Funding for research and innovation will be increased by 50% to reach EUR 100billion. A Digital Europe Programme worth EUR 9 billion will support Europe's digital transformation. A quarter of our budget will support our clean energy, climate and sustainable development targets. And we will take our successful Investment Plan for Europe to the next level with the new InvestEU programme.
This shows how industry will be central to the future of our economy. But for me, like for so many others here in this room, industry is also personal. My own father was a steelworker. The steel plant was the heart and soul of our local community in the deep south of Luxembourg. What I saw growing up still shapes the way I see the world today. I saw honest, hard-working people developing their skills, contributing to society and earning a fair wage. I saw how industry was firstly about people and I saw the stability that industry gave to my family.
Of course, industry today looks very, very different. Technologies have changed, ways of working are different. Climate change poses as many major challenges as it does opportunities for European companies to take the lead globally. But ultimately, Europe is still an industrial society – both at heart and in practice. And we should still always think about what our economy can do for people – rather than what people can do for the economy. This is why I have made the European Pillar of Social Rights a personal priority. It is about ensuring things like equal pay for equal work in the same place. It is about providing a work-life balance so that everyone can have stability at home and stability at work. It is about equipping people with the right skills in the changing world of work.
Around a third of European employers say they cannot find people with the right skills to grow and innovate. 44% of Europeans still lack basic digital skills. And yet we have still have many high qualified young people in jobs that do not match their profiles. Our New Skills Agenda for Europe is helping to plug the skills gap and support workers young and old to develop new skills for today's job market. When it comes to adapting to the modern world, skills and jobs should be our number one priority.
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
You will hear today a lot about how globalisation will shape the future of our industry. But I believe that if we are ambitious and can make the most of our potential, Europe and its industry can help to shape the future of fair globalisation. Yes, there will be challenges. But Europe's industry has always shown its willingness and ability to adapt. And this is what it must continue to do.
Thank you for listening.