In theory Emmanuel Macron was elected on a pro-business platform including pledges to reform France’s labour market, cut public spending, reduce taxes and turn France into a “startup nation.”
In practice, however, one of the Jupiterian president’s first economic policy actions has been to nationalise a shipyard, STX France, to prevent it from going to Italian hands.
Italy’s state-owned Fincantieri shipyard earlier this year agreed to acquire 2/3 of the French shipyard, after the Korean parent STX collapsed last year. When the Italians balked to accept the offer of a 50/50 ownership split, Macron exercised France’s pre-emption rights to acquire the whole company.
So what does this mean? Is the nationalisation to be viewed as a non-ideological act of Gaullist pragmatism? Or is Macron really a Mitterand disguised in Rothschild clothing?
It seems the French government is trying to downplay the implications of the nationalistation, with economy minister Bruno Le Maire insisting that; “The pre-emption decision is temporary and should give us the time to negotiate in the best conditions.”
Yet at the same time Le Maire stated that the nationalisation had a “single objective”, to “defend France’s strategic interests in shipbuilding.”
We are thus led to believe that the nationalisation is both 1) temporary and 2) strategic, which can sound like a contradiction in terms.
Perhaps the French state already have other potential buyers up their sleeve, and that a sale of the shipyard will indeed find place within a short time frame. If not, the French state’s dirigiste handling of the affair may dissuade other potential acquireres from entering the fray, presuming that they are deemed politically acceptable owners by the French government in the first place.
In the meantime the Macron government has achieved to:
- Raise severe questions over the Macron government’s real business agenda.
- Hurt Franco-Italian relations
- Raise barriers for intra-EU mergers and acquisitions.
At the same time the nationalisation shows that Macron does not hesitate from taking strong and radical actions, that may not lend themselves to easy interpretation within the framework of a left to right political axis.
So far the new French president may be more Mercurial than Jupiterian