PARIS: France should invest in a Bridgestone tire factory threatened with closure, said Sunday the head of his regional government who plans to run against President Emmanuel Macron in 2022, in anticipation of a ministerial visit to the site.
The appeal from Xavier Bertrand, a former minister who now heads the Hauts-de-France region, adds pressure on the government to prevent an outright closure of the facility, as the coronavirus pandemic beats confidence.
The announcement made on Wednesday by the Japanese tire maker of its intention to close the Béthune plant, which employs 863 workers in the northern region of Bertrand, was quickly condemned by the government.
Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne is expected to visit the factory on Monday.
Bertrand, a conservative who served as health minister between 2005 and 2007 in Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, told Europe 1 radio that “everything must be done” to avoid a shutdown – citing a 2013 precedent in which the Italy has invested in a Bridgestone plant to avoid closure. and save 60% of its jobs.
Bertrand also stepped up his criticism of Macron in a separate interview with Le Parisien, saying he was “more determined than ever” to challenge the centrist French president in the next presidential election.
(Reporting by Tangi Salaun and Laurence Frost; Editing by Alex Richardson)