INTERVIEW – While the coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the deficiencies of the production system, the co-founder, with Arnaud Montebourg, of the Assises du product in France is drawing up avenues of mobilization to revive the industrial sectors.
If the economic, health and social situation was not so serious, Yves Jégo, 59, would probably not shy away from his pleasure. Founder of the certification Guaranteed French origin and, alongside Arnaud Montebourg, Assises of producing in France, this former secretary of state of the Fillon government sees the need to rebuild a solid tricolor industry in public debate. A new lease of life carries this desire to oppose an “anonymous globalization”, to use the title of the report he gave to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.
Challenges – How do you judge the debate on the industrial deficiencies that appear in France, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis?
Yves Jégo – We have taken a giant step in realizing that the fight to preserve our economic sovereignty is not anecdotal. Since the difficulties encountered to get masks, enough respirators and medicines, sovereignty suddenly no longer appears to be a rearguard fight, as it was often mocked! I have been fighting on this subject for more than ten years.
You have effectively defended Made in France. But the concern today is in very specific areas, like the pharmaceutical industry – not in the tricolor manufacturing of jeans or underwear …
Indeed, there are obvious industries of sovereignty that few people dispute, such as defense. But in other sectors, we can clearly see today that the fact of no longer having entire supply chains is disabling. You talk about jeans – but it’s the weakening of the textile industry that makes the production of masks so difficult. France suffers from the loss of control of many sectors, the productions having been split up all over the world. It’s the inconsistency of globalization that breaks out in broad daylight with the coronavirus. This globalization, guided by margins and financial profits, has made us totally dependent on distant countries of Asia, which is absurd. This virus counts “happy globalization” on the list of its victims.
If France rediscovers the interest of economic sovereignty, it does so when its companies are more than ever threatened with collapse. Do you believe that an industrial renaissance can take place at the heart of the current crisis?
I am optimistic about the state of mind of public opinion, sensitive to the challenges of national production. And this public support is essential in a democracy to move forward on such subjects. On the other hand, I am pessimistic about the state of the economy. We must save our businesses. This is why Origin France Garantie and the crowdfunding platform Tudigo have launched an initiative to support these companies that produce in France. It is possible, on the website www.soutenonsnosentreprises.fr/ to buy products, from Laguiole knives to Blue-white-beehive honeys; but also to make loans and donations. To revive our industry, it must first not collapse.
Do you not think that, once the containment is complete, the concern for economic independence will be chased away by the return of “business as usual”; that awareness will be erased by more or less voluntary collective amnesia?
I suggest that a Grenelle made in France, a Grenelle of industry, a Grenelle of factories in France be organized. It will involve bringing together all the stakeholders, starting with entrepreneurs, the state and the regions. All sectors must be studied, from drugs to food, to put the package and ensure our production capacities. There is a desire among young entrepreneurs to recreate industrial sectors. We must express our support to them through this process. Because for the time being, by exchanging with each other, in the networks of Origin France guaranteed, I note that there is a gap between government announcements and perception on the ground: immense fears are expressed for the short term.
Beyond this Grenelle of factories in France, it is necessary to set up an industrial renewal committee comprising in particular all the ministers concerned, the major banks as well as the thirteen French regions and the Overseas Territories. The place of the regions is essential for the success of this policy, because it is at this level that concrete implementations are carried out. The state will not succeed if the regions are not involved in reflections and decisions. An industry commissioner could organize the mobilization. This will to mobilize exists. It must be reinforced by strong speeches, clear perspectives and decisions.
The government had launched, before the crisis, as part of its productive pact, a reflection on the reduction of production taxes – that companies pay on their turnover before earning profits. Is this a good track?
Lowering these taxes is one way to accelerate the renaissance of the production industry. But we must also encourage investment in tools and machines to improve the competitiveness of our factories. Like the research tax credit, an equipment tax credit should be created. We also need to be able to deliver turnkey factories to entrepreneurs.
Clearly, we know all the tracks to follow. Now you have to speed up. Take action. Politicians must be innovative. It is better to support the sectors than they have been for two years. The industrial territories, set up by the government, as well as the French fab, are good marketing tools. But these devices translate very little into action on the ground. After this first time of explanation and display, it takes a second time for concrete decisions.
I would add that if these technical, fiscal and budgetary elements are essential, they are not the only ones. We must also send our entrepreneurs proofs of love! We must show that France loves these companies from the national territory.
Should this mobilization be done, as Jean-Pierre Chevènement suggests, within the framework of a “government of public safety” carried by a national union?
A government ofnational union would make the bed of the National Rally (RN). Because, placed outside such a gathering, the RN would find itself the only opponent in the political game. There would only be one opposition that would see a boulevard open before it. The President of the Republic can play the opening. But national union is a dangerous marketing trap.