Blog: Dave LeggettBit worked up in Belgium

Dave Leggett | 23 November 2006

The shock of Volkswagen’s announcement that it is shifting Golf production out of Belgium and back to Germany must still be sinking in for the workers there. I don’t really think of Belgium as a place where people get worked up about anything, except maybe the cost of beer or the price of the mayonnaise on their potato chips. A peaceful and civilised place that spawned such luminaries as Eddy Merckx, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tin-Tin and, er, lots of other notable figures I am sure.

Sounds like the Belgians are pretty worked up though – and understandably so. Is it VW’s fault? Not really – we’re all to blame. We want cheap goods in the shops and we’ve maybe sleepwalked into letting the global economy genie out of the bottle so that free trade can run riot. Consequently, there’s a massive global economic transition underway.

The key thing is for developed economies to adapt to the new conditions and that’s where it can get tricky. How much can the ‘services economy’ take the slack when commoditised manufacturing migrates - in a relatively short period of time - to low-cost locations?

Manufacturing offshoring won’t go as far as to turn Western Europe into a giant theme-park for Asian tourists (eventually costs and wages go up anyway - look at the price of beer in Prague now! - changing relativities), but there is likely to be more pain ahead as the shakeout in manufacturing, including automotive, continues. And the term ‘economic nationalism’ might be one we hear more of. Spain’s next on the VW hit-list by the sound of things.

BELGIUM [updated 16:15GMT]: Workers blockade VW plant


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