Vive Le Protectionnisme!

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
vive le protectionnisme

When France announced their bailout package to the car industry, it came with a covenant: keep jobs in France. This immediately raised the EU’s ire of the EU. Free trade commissar Neelie Kroes spat into the direction of Paris: “If the help comes with conditions, for instance to keep production in France, then these measures would be illegal and would not be approved by us.” After the whipping from mistress Kroes, the Sarkozy government France struck the clause from the bailout package—and then claimed a “ moral obligation” for the French to stay in France. Brussels was displeased with the French moral imperative, especially when Renault is still 15.7 percent in government hands, considering that the government/industry relations in France can put a zaibatsu in Japan, or a company owned outright by the Chinese government, to shame. A wary eye was kept on France ever since. Yesterday, it turned into an angry stare.

“Fears that France’s €7.8bn state aid package for its car industry is protectionist resurfaced on Friday when Renault announced that it was relocating production of one its small cars from Slovenia to a plant in France,” the Financial Times [sub] reports.

It all started with French industry minister Luc Chatel boasting that Renault was to “announce the repatriation of the production of one of its vehicles” to an assembly plant in Flins, west of Paris and that the French government aid package was “beginning to get results.”

Immediately, klaxons sounded in Brussels. Officials fired off an angry letter to Paris asking it to explain the apparent contradiction with earlier French promises. Neelie Kroes found the remarks “highly surprising.”

Then, a backpedaling of Tour-de-France proportions ensued. Revoz, Renault’s subsidiary in Slovenia, explained that production of the Clio 2 was being mostly moved back to Flins because the plant at Novo Mesto, east of Ljubljana, was at full capacity and would now concentrate on making the Twingo, a small car for which demand has surged.

Nicolas Sarkozy went public. France’s president claimed the change “would not take a single job from our Slovenian friends.”

Says the FT: “Renault’s clarification is likely to reassure the Commission but it will do nothing to dissipate its anger at Paris over its handling of the car industry bail-out. Mr Chatel’s remarks are the latest example of French ministers playing by EU rules when talking to Brussels while also giving their public the impression that French jobs and factories will get preference.”

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  • Pista Pista on Mar 22, 2009

    I'm [partly] with kablamo on this. When it comes to bailouts, you don't need no stinking badges. French protectionism might stick in the free market craw but they don't view socialism the way the Americans do.

  • RogerB34 RogerB34 on Mar 22, 2009

    France is acting so Obama like.

  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
  • Lorenzo The other automakers are putting silly horsepower into the few RWD vehicles they have, just as Stellantis is about to kill off the most appropriate vehicles for that much horsepower. Somehow, I get the impression the OTHER Carlos, Tavares, not Ghosn, doesn't have a firm grasp of the American market.
  • UncleAL ...Oh, did I forget ? My Dodge Challenger gets 50% more gas mileage and 200% more fun !