LONDON—Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos Group founder and chairman, has written an open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressing his concerns about the future of the European chemicals industry.
The Feb. 12 letter particularly criticized the European Union for its green taxes and regulations, saying they should be reduced to sustain a competitive chemical industry.
"Europe is no longer competitive. It has the world's most expensive energy and labor laws that are uninviting for employers," Ratcliffe wrote. He noted that green taxes can at best be described as "foolish" and "at worst as simply stupid," adding that the taxes likely will have the"opposite effect to how they were intended."
"Nobody in my business seriously invests in Europe. ... Everyone in my business does however invest in the U.S., Middle East or China or indeed all three," he wrote.
According to Ratcliffe, the U.S. is "in the middle of a $200 billion spending spree" on 333 new chemical plants. China also has spent a similar amount on its chemicals business in recent years, he added.
Pointing out that the $4 trillion chemical industry was considerably bigger than the automotive sector, Ratcliffe added that the sector directly employs more than 1 million in Europe.
"But the industry is uncompetitive," he wrote. "In the past decade, Europe's share of the world chemical market has halved from 30 percent to 15 percent."
Ratcliffe identified the EU's strict labor laws as another factor making employers reluctant to operate in the region.
"On top of this, green taxes have pushed investors to the U.S. and China, where taxes are lower," Ratcliffe wrote. "America's new investments have meant new jobs, and (the U.S.) has improved environmental emissions—but Europe can't seem to do the same."
Ineos, based in Rolle, Switzerland, announced in January that it was building an major ethane gas cracker and PDH unit in Antwerp, Belgium. However, the letter explained that the investment was only possible because of the company's access to its own "low priced, cost effective" shale gas from the U.S.
Ineos imports its own ethane via its own transatlantic vessels, meaning it does not need to buy feedstock from European suppliers.
"Don't expect others to follow (Ineos in investing). They will be welcomed by the U.S. and China with a warm smile and a good strategy," he wrote.