Interview with Gerd Götz
Commercial policy and global trade are dominating international media. What can we expect and what is your association doing to deal with the challenges ahead?
The number one cause of today’s global aluminium unbalances is the year-on-year increase of Chinese primary and semi-fabricated aluminium overcapacities. Our continuing efforts to promote free and fair trade and our two-year campaign on EU Anti-Dumping Regulation have proved to be instrumental in placing the issue high on the European Union’s policy agenda. But more needs to be done on a global level to tackle the Chinese structural overcapacity.
What do you suggest?
We believe that the modernisation of the multilateral trade system at WTO and the creation of a global multilateral and governmental Forum on Aluminium Overcapacity are necessary to prevent further damages to the European industry. Together with our counterparts from the U.S., Canada, and Japan we developed an action plan to a sustainable global aluminium market and are calling G7 and G 20 leaders for government dialogue and to establish an international monitoring system.
Furthermore, as we may face damages caused by additional aluminium imports that might be coming into the EU because of the closure of the US market, we requested a surveillance system for imports of aluminium. The Commission has implemented this system in May this year which will help the EU to adopt safeguard measures if necessary. Our association will continue to work together with the EU institutions to ensure that the EU acts with adequate trade defence measures as soon as necessary.
The aluminium industry faces tough global competition. Which are the strengths of the European industry?
The major strength of the European industry is the combined and unique know-how of our members, from primary to semi-fabrication and recycling, the strong hand in innovation based on intimate knowledge of customer insights and the strong links we have with strategic value chains across many different key industries in Europe. The competitive edge of the European market and the ambitions of the EU to creating a low-carbon economy challenge our industry like nowhere else – and our members live up to it again and again.
Europe has one of the lowest primary production carbon footprints in the world; less than half the global average and almost one-third that of China. Our industry has set a number of voluntary targets in its Sustainability Roadmap towards 2025 to ensure that we will remain a leading region when it comes to producing high-quality products with a low environmental impact. All these elements allow us to lead the way when it comes to smart manufacturing and digitalisation for aluminium manufacturing and processing, which will lead to increased efficiency and cost savings.
Mobility is one of the main drivers of demand. What are you doing in Brussels to support that?
Aluminium is widely used in mobility applications – cars, vans, trucks, public transportation but also airplanes – because of its lightweight that contributes directly to reducing CO2 emissions in the mobility sector. One important piece of legislation at EU level is the post-2020 CO2 standards for cars and vans which was presented by the EU Commission in November 2017. The proposal sought to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and vans by 15 percent between 2021 and 2025 and by 30 percent between 2021 and 2030. However, the proposal is based on a vehicle’s mass as the measure for setting specific targets for individual manufacturers. This is not the most optimal option as it allows heavier cars to emit more and penalises lighter cars with tougher objectives.
How will European Aluminium take action?
With the proposal now being discussed by the European Parliament and by the Member States, we will continue to argue for a correction to this approach, to make it technology neutral and more efficient from an environmental and consumer’s point of view. Besides, we also want to make EU institutions and stakeholders aware of the key role aluminium must play in the electrification of transport. We are running a communications campaign with a new video showing aluminium’s role in enabling a green electric future mobility.
Innovation is key. Can you tell us more about your projects as an association on this field?
No future without innovation! It’s critical for the competitiveness of every single company and the sector in general. Together with our members, we have established an Innovation Hub, designed to align industry activity with the European Union’s innovation agenda. The Innovation Hub is a pre-competitive platform which triggers research projects along the value chain that advance a sustainable future and tackle technological challenges, advancing the industry’s Sustainability Roadmap to 2025.
How do you intend to achieve this?
Through our Innovation Hub, European Aluminium helps in coordinating research projects and identifying relevant funding opportunities. A recent success is RemovAL, a four-year Horizon 2020 project supported by €11.5M in EU funding. The primary objective of RemovAL is to convert bauxite residues and spent pot linings waste into resources such as soil stabiliser, high-performance concrete, lightweight aggregate and blended cement and mineral wool through industrial symbiosis and innovative, customised processing routes. The project consortium spans across 12 European countries bringing together 26 partners including Mytilineos, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Alum, European Aluminium and the International Aluminium Institute. And this is just one example.
How is the future of the industry shaped by the EU’s shift to a low carbon economy?
Europe's low-carbon transition needs more metals, and especially more aluminium. It will open a window of opportunity for more aluminium usage in several sectors including wind turbines, solar panels, low carbon mobility, resource-efficient packaging and energy efficient buildings.
However, increasingly strict climate and energy regulations mean that the European industry faces higher compliance costs than in other regions, which negatively affects its competitiveness. Therefore, it is crucial that the EU finds the right balance in setting long-term targets for CO2 reduction, recycling and the reindustrialisation of our economies.
In October, the international branch will meet at ALUMINIUM 2018. What are your expectations?
I look forward to seeing the latest innovations from our members at their booths and to hearing about the latest trends, product know-how and innovations during the ALUMINIUM Conference and ALUMINIUM Forum. I also expect to have plenty of deep discussions with both members and non-members on the future of our European industry. And finally, we will present our I+Manifesto at the fair, an initiative designed to inspire Europe’s decision makers to imagine a renewed and dynamic industry and … take action. The aluminium industry has all it takes to be part of a truly sustainable economy. You will see it at the fairground.