Review of François Hollande’s conference for the CNER

On Tuesday 13 December 2022, a free conference was held with François Hollande for the CNER, the federation of attractiveness, development, and innovation agencies. During this conference, the former French president returned to a particularly worrying subject: the energy crisis and its challenges.

The French state and the energy crisis

Last Tuesday, François Hollande spoke about the management of the energy crisis in France and its impact on the industrial sector. Faced with the concern of the speakers, the former president of the Republic explained that he did not know exactly what the state could do to lower the energy costs of large, medium, and small companies. He added that the state was doing its best but that a dilemma arose, and I quote “there is a dilemma because what the state spends to alleviate the immediate burden, it does not spend to repair the inevitable change. What do I spend to avoid the worst and what do I put on the table to prepare the best?”. François Hollande therefore speaks of a coming mutation, a mutation which would mean that companies would be encouraged to transform their activity.  

2023, a year of creative destruction ?

François Hollande describes the coming year as one of zero growth, during which some sectors will grow, and others decline. Those in decline will then be replaced, transformed into another sector of activity. According to the President, companies with increasing needs will not be able to compensate for the price of energy for more than two years and will have to close their activity if they cannot maintain their business. To alleviate this major problem, he proposed to put in place a gas cap at European level. A solution that the Germans are not in favor of, in fact François Hollande states “the Germans consider that we have to live with market prices and if they increase, we have to live with high gas prices”.

While the European measure seems to have been put in place recently, capping the price of gas at €180 per megawatt hour (MWh), the president explains that in the long term, we must prepare for industrial change, for creative destruction, which he describes as “a source of new activities but also of social pain”. He also said that it was necessary to continue to be vigilant about sectors in decline or likely to come to a halt, and that it was necessary to work at both national and territorial levels.

“France is the country with the largest trade deficit in Europe”

With the energy crisis, France is experiencing a worrying trade deficit, reinforcing its position as the European country with the largest deficit in the trade sector.  François Hollande explains “One of the problems of France is the trade deficit which reflects a poor industrial specialization. Small and medium-sized companies do not export enough, so the challenge is to get medium-sized companies to export, where the Germans have done well.”

He added that global warming, energy change and new technologies could be an opportunity for France to find sectors that would once again be exporters, thereby compensating for the trade deficit. 

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