French Socialist in Mittal Row: We’re Just Doing What Obama Does.

French Socialist in Mittal Row: We’re Just Doing What Obama Does

Published: Friday, 30 Nov 2012 | 6:48 AM ET
By: Reported by Stephane Pedrazzi, written by Catherine Boyle

The French politician who said Indian steel company ArcelorMittal should leave the country has told CNBC that his government is only acting like U.S. President Barack Obama.

FRANCE-POLITICS-ECONOMY-COMPETITIVENESS
Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images
French Minister for Industrial Recovery, Arnaud Montebourg poses as he arrives at the Hotel Matignon (the Prime Minister’s official residence) in Paris.

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, a member of the governing Socialist party, caused controversy last week when he said that the Indian company, which employs close to 20,000 people in France, should leave after it said it would have to close down a factory.

The French government announced on Thursday that it could nationalize the factory in question, with backing from an unnamed businessman.

The news raised the specter of the nationalizations of the early 1980s, which were instigated by Hollande’s predecessor Francois Mitterrand.

Montebourg told CNBC after a meeting with trade unions in Paris: “Barack Obama’s nationalized. The Germans are nationalizing. All countries are nationalizing. I’ve also noticed the British nationalized 6 banks.”

 

Montebourg is believed to be referring to the takeover of struggling automakers by the U.S. government earlier in the financial crisis.

Lakshmi Mittal, the tycoon who leads ArcelorMittal, met with Montebourg’s boss, Socialist President Francois Hollande earlier in the week, but the men appeared to have failed to resolve the issue.

Montebourg brushed off comparisons with that era. He said: “It’s a very good sign to send out (to investors). Nationalizing is a very modern step to take. Especially when you not only nationalize losses but profits as well, when you make public/private partnerships. This is our strategy.

“The strategy we’re putting forward is extremely modern and adapted to the current times of crisis. It’s a way of making the economy work in the interests of industry, more than just helping the financial sector,” he added.

He declined to answer a question about comments from Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who told Indian businessmen earlier this week to come to London instead of France.