US executive blasts 'extremist' French government

WASHINGTON (AFP) - An outspoken American CEO criticised France's government anew on Thursday, but praised French women and wine and said that he himself was named after the iconic crooner Maurice Chevalier.

A day after an incendiary letter by Maurice Taylor rocked France, Titan's chief executive pumped more fuel into the fire with a new missive scolding the French government's "extremist" policies toward private business.

Taylor told Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg that France's political class was "out of touch (with) real world problems."

"The extremist, Mr Minister, is your government and the lack of knowledge about how to build a business," he said.

Montebourg, in a letter of his own, had lashed out at the "extremist" US investor for his colorful rejection of Paris's invitation to invest in a loss-making Goodyear tire plant in northern France.

In his February 8 rebuff to that invitation, Taylor had assailed France's business conditions, especially its wages and work ethic.

"I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours," Taylor had said.

"They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three.

I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!"

Taylor's letter sparked an uproar when it was published on Wednesday, and Montebourg accused the American investor of stupidity.

"Your extremist insults display a perfect ignorance of what our country is about," the French minister wrote.

"Be assured that you can count on me to inspect your tire imports with a redoubled zeal."

In his latest response, Taylor said that he himself "must be nuts to have the idea to spend millions of US dollars to buy a tire factory in France paying some of the highest wages in the world."

"Your government let the wackos of the communist union destroy the highest paying jobs," Taylor told Montebourg.

"At no time did Titan ask for lower wages; we asked only if you want seven hours pay, you work at least six."

Taylor said many French people shared his criticism of France.

However, he acknowledged: "France does have beautiful women and great wine."

"PS: My grandmother named my father after French entertainer Maurice Chevalier," and as his father's oldest son, he inherited the name, Taylor added.

Earlier, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland played down the spat as a "private matter" and not a concern between the United States and its "oldest ally" France.

"We have deep and broad relations, including many successful American businesses operating in France, many successful French businesses operating in the United States," she added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.