French manufacturers are more likely to shift work to North Africa than eastern Europe, says aerospace industry association GIFAS.

Leading companies, such as Labinal and Snecma, already operate joint ventures in Morocco, and pressure to cut costs by manufacturing outside the euro zone will press more to follow them to Morocco and Tunisia, according to GIFAS_managing director Guy Rupied.

"The main problem at the moment is the US dollar rate," Rupied says. The currency has fallen 27% against the euro since 2001, putting euro-zone companies at a severe disadvantage. Eastern European countries are less expensive but, says deputy managing director Olivier Gorge: "It is difficult to work in Poland or the Czech Republic or Hungary. They need to be trained to our standards and everything must be translated into German or English or Polish. It's easier to look at the Maghreb countries [Morocco and Tunisia]. It is not far from Toulouse to Tangiers. They are French-speaking and French-educated, and also low-cost - much lower than in Eastern Europe."

Gorge points at European Union programmes to train North African engineers in France as giving French companies another advantage in the region.Costs are also lower in Russia, but there are other disadvantages that will limit French involvement there. As Rupied says: "Russia has excellent technology, research and creativity, but the problem is their economy and industry are not organised. They are still based on the Soviet Union model, the legal position is not always very clear, and the rules are a little different."

Co-operation on design and research is possible, he adds, pointing to Snecma's involvement with the Sukhoi Russian Regional Jet project, but "the design responsibility at least has to stay in France

Source: Flight International