The story of an “incredible letter” from Maurice Taylor, CEO of Titan, to Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Industrial Renewal of France starts with a question Taylor asked Montebourg: “How Stupid Do You Think We Are?”

In his letter, Taylor blasted French workers, French unions, and he also threw in a side insult directed at the USA. A day later, Montebourg, responded with his own set of insults directed at Titan, but the response was in French.

In Montebourg Responds, Cites Normandy Landings and Barack Obama I asked readers for a translation of Montebourg’s reply to Taylor.

Reader “NP” quickly stepped up to the plate and provided this translation.


Your insulting and extremist words show a complete ignorance of France, its competitive advantages, as well as its worldwide acknowledged attractiveness and its links with the United States of America.

France is proud to welcome on its soil more than 20,000 foreign companies, representing  close to 2 million jobs, a third of its industrial exports, 20% of its private R&D;, and 25% of its manufacturing jobs. Every year, we count 700 decisions of investments creating jobs and value in France. And this solid attractiveness does not weaken, on the opposite every year it becomes stronger.

Within those foreign investments, the United States rank at the top. 4200 subsidiaries of American companies employ about 500,000 people. The presence of American companies in France is very old : Haviland since 1842, IBM since 1914, Coca-Cola since 1933, General Electric since 1974. And how many others. Those links are every year renewed: In 2012, companies such as Massey-Ferguson, Mars Chocolate, and 3M have chosen to increase their presence in France.

What are the decisive factors in those investment choices? Foreign companies seek in France quality infrastructure, an enjoyable life-style, and an energy among the most competitive in Europe, as well as an environment very favourable to research and innovation. But above all,  far from your ridiculous and disparaging remarks, all of those companies know and appreciate the quality and productivity of the French workforce, the commitment, know-how, talent and skills of French workers.

To amplify this attractiveness, the French government has recently taken 35 steps within the framework of the National Pact for growth, competitiveness and employment. Among those, tax credit and employment lightens by 6% companies’ employment costs between 1 and 2.5 SMIC [ie: SMIC French minimum wages]. Furthermore, the unions have just stroked an agreement on job security, which illustrate the quality of social dialog [French buzzword for negotiation between unions & corporations] in France, and how important it is for my government.

May I remind you that Titan, the company you manage, is 20 times smaller than Michelin, our French internationally famous technological leader, and is 35 times less profitable. This shows how much Titan could benefit and profit enormously from an investment in France.

France is especially proud and happy to welcome American investments as both our countries are bound by an ancient and passionate friendship. Do you even know what La Fayette did for the United States of America? For our part, we French, shall never forget the sacrifice of young American soldiers on the Normandy beaches to deliver us from Nazism in 1944. And, as you choose to criticize your own government in the letter you addressed to me. I have to tell you how much the French government admires the policies set up by president Obama. As the minister in charge of Industry, I am especially impressed by his actions in favour of the relocation of manufacturing jobs in the United States, and of radical innovation. Actually, our current policy exhibits a certain closeness with that inspired by your president.

You evoke your intention to exploit the workforce of certain countries to flood our market. I have to tell you that this unethical and short-term calculation will sooner or later hit the just reaction of the states. That is already the case for France and its increasingly numerous allies within the EU that plead for trade reciprocity and are organizing a response against dumping. Meanwhile, rest assured that you can rely on me to encourage the relevant services to check your import tires with increasing zeal. They shall be especially careful regarding the respect of social, environmental and technical norms.

Arnaud Montebourg

Hidden Insults

NP added a few of his own thoughts …

Government is traditionally standing in the way of business in France. Only big companies can get by. Note how Montebourg very indirectly tells Titan “You’re so small so we don’t give a damn”. Also note the crusading rhetoric towards the end.

When Carlos Ghosn (Renault CEO) told the Hollande administration “Governments should try to determine why consumers are not buying cars” it’s almost certainly a jab taken at the government.

Ghosn really meant “Government should face the fact that collapsing demand is due to their misguided policies”. That was a classic French “hidden insult”.

“NP” was referring to my January 17 post European Car Demand Near 20-Year Low; Peugeot Workers Shut Down French Plant) when I wrote …

Renault’s CEO Proposes Study to Determine Why Consumers Are Not Buying Cars

No doubt you are laughing right along with me in response to an inane suggestion by Renault’s CEO.

When asked what governments and companies could do to address the contraction of the market in Europe, he responded “Governments should try to determine why consumers are not buying cars.

Is it the responsibility of government to figure out why Renault and other carmaker’s cannot sell cars, or is that the responsibility of carmakers?

The answer is obvious, and so is the answer to the original question.

The comment by Renault CEO was so ridiculous, I should have recognized it for sarcasm (or as “NP” describes it “a classic hidden insult”).

Thanks “NP”!

Thanks also to others who provided translations including “JF” and “PR”. I took the first translation I came across and it also happened to have interesting comments on a form of French sarcasm.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock