While protectionism is not an option for Europe, neither can the EU allow its internal market to be flooded by products that fly in the face of its social and environmental standards and jeopardise its industry, warned the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in a report on a comprehensive industrial policy for the EU adopted at its January plenary.

Europe wants to lead by example, with a manufacturing industry that protects workers' rights, preserves the environment and invests in innovation. However, all of this has significant costs, which are reflected in the price of its products. To guarantee its industry fair trading conditions, the EU must ensure that global products entering its market abide by the same rules. This was the key message of the EESC's opinion on A Comprehensive approach to industrial policy.

"Europe cannot …It cannot afford to be naïve. Overcapacity, illegal state aid and other forms of unfair competition must be tackled by European regulation, while respecting WTO rules", said rapporteur Gonçalo Lobo Xavier (Employers, PT).

The tools to fight these practices must be on the EU's agenda. EU antidumping measures need to be swifter, better monitored and more flexible.

Compared to global players such as China, India and Korea, which have been very active in developing their industrial policy, Europe has no coherent long-term outlook for its industry, stressed the EESC.

A consistent industrial action plan is needed, with binding targets, timetables and instruments to tackle the four key challenges of the next ten years: digitalisation, climate change, globalisation and demographic change.

Reshoring at least some sectors of Europe's industry is also key.

The opinion was drawn up at the request of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU. (dm)