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France, Germany at odds over pace of response to global slowdown

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz

France and Germany are agreed on a strategy to respond to a global economic slowdown at a time of international trade problems but differ over how fast to move, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.

French policymakers are growing anxious as Germany, Europe’s largest economy, dithers over how to pull itself back from the brink of recession, and they want Berlin to do more with its budget surplus to engineer a recovery.

In a news conference alongside Germany’s finance and economy ministers, Le Maire said the strategy was based on three pillars: “keep reducing public debt where it is necessary. And it is the case in France; keep pursuing structural reforms, as we are doing in France; have budget policies that can take up the baton from monetary policy.”

However, Le Maire said that while there was agreement on the approach there remained an open debate on the timeframe for action.

Seeking to underline Franco-German economic cooperation, Le Maire said a pilot plant in France to manufacture electric car batteries will go online in 2022, two years before a second factory opens in Germany, part of a pan-European project to rival Asia’s dominance of the battery market.

France’s Saft, a unit of oil and gas major Total, will lead the first consortium, Le Maire said.

Addressing the subsidy row between European planemaker Airbus and rival Boeing, Le Maire said Paris and Berlin both hoped for an amicable solution while acknowledging the European Union may face U.S. sanctions.

“If the United States imposes sanctions, it must know that we are ready to respond, once again under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.”


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