Brussels, February 13, 2009
Q. – For two days, France has been defending herself against a charge of protectionism in respect of the car industry plan. But making aid conditional on keeping [manufacturing] in the country is a somewhat protectionist economic measure. What is France’s argument, on this point, for saying that France isn’t being protectionist?
THE PRIME MINISTER – France isn’t being protectionist because, obviously, France isn’t imposing any conditions on her manufacturers vis-à-vis their investments within the European Union! Quite simply, France is asking manufacturers, for the duration of the loan granted to them, not to close down assembly sites in France. I think that everyone here is capable of understanding that the French public, like any other European public, wouldn’t accept the taxpayer lending €6 billion to a car manufacturer whose first decision was to announce the closure of an assembly site on national territory. Those are the only conditions we have laid down. The other things we’re requiring from them are to do with executive salaries – I don’t think this is a problem of protectionism – and support for car manufacturers or subcontractors, a large number of whom aren’t in fact French, but on the contrary European firms.
I’d also like to point out to those talking of protectionism here that had we not done what we’ve just done, the French car manufacturers, and therefore the plants they’ve got in the other European countries, would be in extreme difficulty! If, in the next three months, Renault and Peugeot haven’t got the means to fund their cash flow – since that’s what we’re talking about, the means to fund their cash flow – how do you think they’ll be able to go on running the plants they’ve got in the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Britain, Slovenia and Slovakia? Which proves once again just how open the French car industry is within the European Union. (…)./.