Taylor letter ‘ignorant’, replies French minister
Maurice Taylor’s run for the Republican Party nomination in the US presidential election of 1996 ended in failure, and following recent events it is also unlikely the party will keep him in mind as a future Secretary of State. As expected, French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg has responded to the Titan boss’s strongly-worded letter with a few choice comments of his own.
In a written reply, again published in its original and unabridged form by financial daily Les Echos, Montebourg told Taylor that the extremely insulting words in his letter displayed a “perfect ignorance” regarding France, the country’s internationally-recognised strengths and its relationship with the United States of America.
“France is proud to host more than 20,000 foreign companies on its soil, representing nearly two million jobs, a third of industrial exports, 20 per cent of research and development and 25 per cent of private industrial employment. Each year, 700 decisions on local foreign investment create employment value in France. And this strong appeal is not diminishing, on the contrary, it grows stronger year by year.” Montebourg added that the US is the top foreign investor in France, with 4,200 US companies employing nearly half a million people within the country; he noted that Haviland & Co. has been present in France since 1842, IBM since 1914, Coca-Cola since 1933 and General Electric since 1974, while last year companies such as Massey Ferguson, Mars chocolate and 3M chose to increase their presence in France.
Montebourg named numerous qualities as decisive factors in these companies’ decisions to be present in France, including tax incentives. “But most importantly, in contrast to your ridiculous and derogatory comments, all these companies know and appreciate the quality and productivity of the French workforce and the commitment, know-how, talent and skills of French workers.”
Taylor’s comment that “in five years, Michelin won’t be able to produce tyres in France” didn’t go down well. In the written equivalent of a slap in the face with a pair of gloves, Monsieur Montebourg reminded the ‘Grizz’ that Titan is 20 times smaller than the French company and 35 times less profitable. “Namely, Titan could learn a lot from how things are done in France.”
While the criticisms aired in Taylor’s letter were received as an attack on France and its workers as a whole, in his reply Montebourg didn’t take the opportunity to launch a counterattack. Instead, he noted France’s appreciation of the role the US played in freeing the country from Nazism, and he expressed his admiration towards the policy implemented by President Obama – the head of a government Taylor said was “not much better than the French.”
Then he broached The Titan International chairman and CEO’s stated intention to “buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres France needs.” Montebourg referred to this as the exploitation of labour in order to flood the French market. He told Taylor that an increasing number of countries within the European Union are pushing for stronger measures against dumping. “In the meantime, rest assured that you can count on me to have the competent government agencies survey your imported tyres with a redoubled zeal,” he added.
Mickaël Wamen, CGT union representative at Goodyear’s Amiens Nord plant, commented that Maurice Taylor belonged in a “psychiatric asylum.”