“While France is reindustrialising, it is as if the motto is now ‘green or die'”


Un return home and quite a symbol. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) will repatriate to Laval the assembly of telephone exchanges that it had relocated to a Romanian subcontractor. It was in 2001, the year when the group’s boss, Serge Tchuruk, defined his strategy fabless, the company without factories: keep only product design, subcontract manufacturing in low-cost emerging countries. ALE will continue to subcontract, but in France.

Other encouraging news has fallen in recent days for the “France factory”, whose production has more than doubled in fifty years, reminds us of the economist Pierre Veltz. The Trendeo firm and the public investment bank Bpifrance each announced, at the beginning of March, a higher number of site openings than that of closures in 2022, confirming a trend that began in 2016.

The figure put forward by Trendeo of a balance of 80 new establishments or site extensions, admittedly modest with regard to the 250,000 companies in the sector, testifies to real dynamism. And these creations are most often made in sectors of the future linked to health and especially to the ecological transition, as if the motto of the industry was now “green or die”.

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The alert sounded the day after the 2008 financial crisis, when the government did nothing to support businesses as it did during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2009, the Estates General of Industry relaunched the sector policy. Three years later, the report of Louis Gallois on competitiveness directs the socialist president, François Hollande, towards a policy of supply and industrial reconquest.

The state is back in force

At the time, liberals of all stripes laughed at the outbursts of Arnaud Montebourg, self-proclaimed “minister for productive recovery”. Obliged to run from the ArcelorMittal blast furnaces in Florange (Moselle) to the PSA chains in Aulnay-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis) to save the steel industry and the automobile industry, the results of its “new industrial France” will not live up to its flamboyant rhetoric.

Since history loves revenge, its analysis has regained relevance today. No, industrial policy is not a dirty word; yes, a dose of protectionism does no harm in getting Europe and France out of their role as idiots in the global village. The strategic axes adopted in 2013 – after a year of work carried out with the firm McKinsey (ecological transition, health, digital) – even remain priorities. The “man in the marinière made in France” may have been wrong to be right too soon.

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