French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has announced that she will follow Trump’s protectionist lead in acting to keep car production in France.
She is seeking the repatriation of French vehicles and other industrial goods, similar to what President-elect Trump is moving towards in the US. Trump has threatened to slap a ‘big border tax’ tariff on cars made abroad, arguing that the practice costs American jobs. He praised Ford’s decision last week to scrap a new plant plan in Mexico and Fiat Chrysler’s announcement to create 2,000 jobs at US factories.
Le Pen said on France 2 Television regarding French manufacturers Renault and PSA Group: ‘[Trump] is putting in place measures I have been demanding for years,’ calling the idea ‘economic patriotism’ and ‘intelligent protectionism’.
She added: ‘I don't mind explaining to French companies that they cannot escape tax that they should be paying in France, that they cannot go offshore without suffering the consequences […] A choice has to be made, a choice of patriotism.’
Renault and PSA Group both have significant car and parts-making activities outside France in southern and Eastern Europe and have been strongly criticised domestically over plans to expand production in low-wage North African countries.
While Le Pen’s protectionist and anti-globalisation messages have been highly effective in furthering her campaign, most opinion polls indicate that while she will reach the final round of the presidential election in May, she will ultimately lose out to the increasingly popular Francois Fillon of The Republicans conservative party.
Industrial policies such as car production are one of their key differences, with Fillion advocating a liberal programme involving lowering state involvement to make the country less protectionist and free trade-friendly. For example, in December he called for selling government stakes in major French companies, arguing that the government’s near-20% stake in Renault was futile and would not prevent it from building new plants abroad.
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