ArcelorMittal and France Strike a Deal, but Question Remains: Was This Racism Instead of Socialism? - Quartz
The last-minute peace deal between French President Francois Hollande and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal may have saved everyone’s face for the time being. ArcelorMittal plants in France will remain open and job losses will be averted after the government backed away from nationalization threats.
But the damage to Paris’s reputation will be long-lasting.
The world has seen France as a defensive, declining power that can take a xenophobic and—according to some sections of the Indian press—even borderline racist attitude to foreign investors, especially if they come from rising Asia where Europe’s second-largest economy once ran a vast colonial empire.
The personal attacks on Mittal began last week when the paradoxically titled Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg lashed out at billionaire Mittal and his French operations for “lying” and “blackmail.” The minister went so far as to say the company, which employs 20,000 in France, should “get out” of the country because it had failed to show “respect” by planning to shut down two mothballed blast furnaces, resulting in potentially hundreds of job losses.
A poor grasp of basic economics, business imperatives and global financial conditions was demonstrated by the minister, unions and even former senior figures in ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right administration. All of them joined the crowd baying for Mittal’s metaphorical head, although the head of France’s large employers’ association MEDEF, Laurence Parisot, said the threats of nationalization were “scandalous.” A front-page Le Monde editorial also lambasted Montebourg and Hollande for jeopardizing foreign investment with their intemperate words and threats.