“Market forces, which were thought to be regulatory, have actually created new dependencies”

Grandstand. The coronavirus epidemic has clearly highlighted the fragility of supply chains. Let one of the links in this chain fail and we suddenly find ourselves unable to supply a product, an automobile, a drug.

The political and industrial world was moved by it and indicated that repatriation measures in Europe or in France would be taken quickly. This fragility of supply chains poses more broadly the problem of the strategic dependence of France, and even of Europe.

But are we dependent on the mere fact of not having a product or technology just because it is not available outside our borders? The answer is definitely no.

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Even in France, technologies, know-how and products risk being unavailable, or even disappearing, for several reasons, when the volumes of industrial activities are insufficient to ensure their economic viability. Such an SME that has developed a technology whose European outlets do not allow the development of a critical mass of activity is likely to disappear if there is insufficient demand and public order.

Nuclear, space, digital

This case is also worrying when it is no longer an SME, but a large industrial group which judges an activity unprofitable and prefers to dispose of it. Other cases of technology abandonment are also worrying: offshoring is losing the industrial memory of processes, for example. These types of potential supply chain disruptions are numerous and endanger our industries just as much as the unavailability of a product when China stops.

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Identifying dependencies in supply chains is therefore absolutely necessary, beyond dependencies of a geographic or political nature. They should have received special attention long ago. It’s never too late.

So it’s not just a question of relocating manufacturing – as long as we can do it – which is not so easy in a deeply liberal and globalized system. These are dependencies that market forces believed to be regulatory have actually generated.

In the absence of a proactive industrial policy for the State or the European authorities, failure to anticipate the failure of certain activities and failure to take measures to safeguard them, France and Europe will also be unable to implement some of their sovereignty policies. This danger is particularly acute in the leading French sectors: nuclear, space, digital, and probably in many other fields.

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