Le Maire Sees No Room for Renault-Fiat Talks Amid Italy Revival

(Bloomberg) -- Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. need to define a common strategy first before discussing a potential tie-up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The coolness toward the possibility of extending the alliance to the Italian-American carmaker comes against the background of a revival of France’s relationship with Italy after the installation of a new government in Rome. The previous populist administration had often clashed with France on everything from migration to the Yellow Jackets movement to Italy’s takeover of a major shipyard.

Speaking at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy, on Saturday, Le Maire said the birth of the new administration led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is a “unique opportunity” to give “new impetus” to Franco-Italian ties. He signaled several themes that the two countries can cooperate on, including the creation of a euro-area budget and the reform of European competition rules.

“There are many projects on the table,” he said. “I think we can give new impetus to industrial and financial projects between France and Italy.”

Still, the goodwill doesn’t extend for now to Fiat’s attempted merger with Renault, which was called off at the last minute in early June.

“The priority for Renault and Nissan now is clearly to define a common strategy for the future of this key industrial group,” Le Maire told reporters. “I want to know what the industrial strategy is.” While they’re defining that, he said, “it’s not time to open other issues.”

France and Japan reaffirmed their support for the alliance between the two automakers this week, the latest sign the two sides are working toward resolving their dispute. Le Maire added Saturday that “it’s better not to do two things at the same time,” referring to talks with Fiat.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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