Arnaud Montebourg, France’s firebrand industry minister, has no love for steel giant ArcelorMittal. ”We do not want ArcelorMittal in France, because they do not respect France,” he said yesterday. ”The violence and the brutality of Mittal; they are going to have to pay.” He accused the company of blackmail and lying, and threatened to nationalize its French holding.
Lakshmi Mittal, needless to say, was “extremely shocked” by the provocation. So was the French government, the FT reports:
French officials said they were unhappy with Mr Montebourg’s inflammatory language, but insisted the minister was correct in claiming Mr Mittal had failed to meet commitments over the furnaces made in 2006 and 2009. ArcelorMittal denies the claims.
It seems François Hollande’s Socialist government agrees in principle with Montebourg but desperately needs ArcelorMittal to stay in France, where it employs 20,000 people. Hollande called Mr. Mittal to an “emergency” meeting tonight to try to smooth things over.
Montebourg’s “Made in France” campaign is undermining the sturdy pro-jobs platform that helped get Hollande elected. Earlier this year he blasted the Peugot family for its plans to close a factory near Paris. Montebourg’s heart is in the right place, but his relentlessness and penchant for public confrontation is angering some of France’s biggest employers, both foreign and French. That’s not good for an economy teetering on the edge of a cliff.