PARIS (Reuters) – France may try to negotiate some exemptions from the duties and limits imposed by the U.S. anti-inflation act but Europe must act to protect the bloc’s economic interests, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Sunday.

Le Maire will accompany French President Emmanuel Macron on a state visit to the United States next week.

Europeans say the massive subsidy package to protect U.S. manufacturers in the Inflation Reduction Act could deal a lethal blow to their industries, which are already reeling from high energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“France may ask for exemptions on some duties and limits imposed by the U.S administration. But the real question we must ask ourselves is what sort of globalisation is ahead of us?” Le Maire told France 3 television.

“China favours Chinese production, America favours American production, it is time Europe favours European production…All European states must understand that today in the face of these American decisions, we must learn to better protect and defend our economic interests,” he added.

Also on Sunday, Le Maire admitted that the French government had made excessive use of consultancy firms in the past and is now striving to correct that.

Emmanuel Macron’s government has come under pressure in recent months for being too dependent on consultancy groups.
Financial prosecutors said earlier this week they were investigating his election campaign as part of a wider probe into consultancy firm McKinsey and its links to the president.

“We went too far. For years, this government and previous governments relied too much on consultancy firms. It drifted. This was corrected by the Prime Minister’s instruction that all ministries cut by 15% the use of consultancy firms,” Le Maire told France 3 television.

Between the first half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, the Finance Ministry had for instance managed to cut by 34% its use of consultancy firms, he added.

Le Maire did not comment on news France’s national financial prosecutor’s office had widened the scope of an existing probe into alleged tax fraud by consultancy group McKinsey to include the role of consultancy groups in the 2017 and 2022 election races.

Macron on Friday said his 2017 campaign finances were checked and cleared by judges in his first public comments on the probe.
A report by the French Senate in March 2022 had notably pointed out that the government was “dependent” on consulting firms such as McKinsey.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon)

FILE PHOTO: French Minister for Economy, Finance, Industry and Digital Security Bruno Le Maire leaves following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 26, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier