Bruno Le Maire after the Council of Ministers at the Elysée Palace on November 29, 2022 (AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND)
The French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, estimated Friday during an interview with AFP that “we (the European states, editor’s note) must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before s worry about the effects of the great American climate plan on European industry.
“Has Europe changed its approach to reindustrialization and European strategic independence? Yes. (…) However, are we going far enough and fast enough? No. The IRA (the American climate plan, editor’s note) must lead us to an industrial leap”, estimated Mr. Le Maire, present in Washington within the framework of the state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The adoption in the summer of Joe Biden’s $ 420 billion climate plan, called the “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) and obtained after tough negotiations in the Senate, has sparked transatlantic tensions, in particular because of subsidies and tax reductions planned in particular for electric vehicles, batteries and renewable energy projects that promote “made in the USA”.
This plan has made both Brussels and European capitals jump, which see these various subsidies as “discriminatory” measures and “contrary to the rules of the World Trade Organization”.
But, recognizes Bruno Le Maire, “if the ambition is the same” as for the Europeans, the United States relies on approaches that “are simpler and faster”.
“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid via the PIIEC (important projects of common European interest, editor’s note) which are sometimes adopted in two years and are still too complex to implement. “, specified the Minister of Economy.
“If the IRA can make us Europeans realize that the world and our economic partners will not give us any gifts and that we will have to be more resolute in defending our interests, so much the better,” said Mr. Le Mayor.
The effects of the American plan on European industry were discussed on Thursday by Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden, the latter denying, during their joint press conference, that he wanted the job creation hoped for in the United States to take place ” at the expense of Europe”.
– “Joint work” –
“The president made Mr. Biden and his administration aware of the possible consequences of the IRA on European industry, which is already weakened by the war in Ukraine and by energy prices”, assured Bruno Le Mayor.
But “we have moved from pedagogy to working together”, added the French minister, which “will allow us to pursue together and in a coordinated and cooperative manner these strategic objectives on both sides of the Atlantic”.
Among the points raised, that of access to the American market for certain European products under the same conditions as those produced on the spot.
Canada and Mexico got just that kind of benefit after they too protested the terms of the US subsidies, which they said ran counter to the three-country free trade agreement that came into effect in 2018. .
“We are going to open a number of projects: equal treatment between American and European components, avoiding a race for subsidies which is inefficient from an economic point of view and dangerous from the point of view of public finances, and coordination on major projects, hydrogen , electric batteries and semiconductors”, detailed Mr. Le Maire.
With a message sent to the United States: “we did not come to seek specific exemptions, we want to open a joint work” on the subjects set out.
Still, the room for maneuver for Joe Biden could prove to be limited, between the loss of his majority in the House of Representatives in January, result of the mid-term elections, and the strength of a text which is intended to be a strong symbol. for the US President.
Especially since some of its measures are very popular, especially in states where the automotive industry remains very powerful, such as Ohio or Michigan, now considered key states, where elections can be played out.
“I am confident”, insists Bruno Le Maire, however, because in the United States as in Europe, “we will favor a cooperative approach to any confrontational approach. We do not want to leave China, Russia or others the monopoly of carbon-free industry and we want our own industrial sectors in this area.”
© 2022 AFP
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