French industry snubs Marine Le Pen

Bloomberg

Thu, Mar 02, 2017 - Page 10

French industry is starting to signal its opposition to French National Front leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Lobby groups representing more than 13 percent of the French economy and 3.1 million jobs held a policy debate with the main presidential campaigns on Tuesday and Le Pen’s team was not invited — her plan to pull France out of the euro and introduce protectionist measures meant that she would not have made a positive contribution to the debate, industry leaders said.

“It wasn’t useful to speak with candidates who don’t defend European ideas,” French Group of Industrial Federations director Vincent Moulin Wright said in an interview.

Investors and executives have been unnerved by the prospect of Le Pen emerging from the most open election in living memory with a mandate to withdraw from the European currency union.

French bonds have whipsawed with the ebb and flow of her campaign. Ten-year yields reached their highest in 16 months last month as the nationalist gained momentum and they have shed 25 basis points since then as centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron bolstered his own bid with a series of key endorsements.

Macron will be seeking to consolidate his advantage when he sets out the detail of his policy proposals today. Le Pen will be aiming to demonstrate her own credentials on the economy when she gives a speech the same night.

While Le Pen is favorite to win the first-round vote on April 23, no poll yet has shown her coming within even 10 percentage points of victory in the run-off on May 7.

“I think I know why I wasn’t asked to speak,” Le Pen said in a statement on her Web site. “There’s total panic in a system that is off the rails.”

Also excluded was far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has promised to review all of France’s commitments to the EU.

Le Pen’s National Front team was left off the guest list because the discussion was focused on competitiveness within the EU and she is opposed to French membership of the bloc, said Michel Grandjean, head of the French Federation for Mechanical Industries, which represents 629,000 employees and 30,200 companies including trainmaker Alstom SA.

Le Pen and Melenchon’s demand for more protection for French companies also ran counter to the focus of the debate, he said.

“Competitiveness implies free trade, which is not an option that Le Pen or Melenchon have supported,” Grandjean said, describing the National Front leader’s response as “sharp.”