Brazil is all for free markets, its Industry Minister Fernando Pimentel told the meeting at the headquarters of French bosses’ union Medef Wednesday, but it "cannot accept these predatory practices in world trade that we are in the habit of seeing from Asia".
Montebourg echoed his words, saying that France was "open to hosting all long-term projects we would just as much protect the European economy from the excesses of a predatory economy, which you have perfectly identified".
The French minister at one point threatened to nationalise ArcelorMittal’s steelworks at Florange but was disavowed by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who signed a deal allowing Mittal to keep it, despite accusations that the company has broken previous commitments.
Mittal himself on Thursday described the deal as “fair” and said he would keep his promise to maintain 629 jobs and invest 180 million euros over five years in the plant.
Unions denounced the agreement as a trick and claimed that the company was ditching a bid to run an EU-funded low carbon steel project.
"The whole world was surprised" by the nationalisation threat, Mittal said. "I have never heard such irrational remarks from a minister. If today, a country like France, the world's fifth largest economy, speaks of nationalisation it's a real setback."
One union, the CFDT, on Thursday claimed that an internal company document showed that the Florange site was one of the company’s most profitable.
ArcelorMittal responded with a claim that the report had never been validated by the company.
Brazil, whose growth rate has slowed to under one per cent this year, has come under fire from British Prime Minister David Cameron, for stimulus measures designed to prop up its industry, which is losing out to imports, notably from Asia, and appreciating its currency.
Montebourg has launched a “made in France” campaign, which has featured him posing in a Breton sailor top with a Moulinex kitchen blender for the cover of a Le Parisien’s weekly magazine.
Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, who is visiting Paris along with Pimentel, announced on Wednesday that her country is planning to build at least 800 airports as part of a drive to improve infrastructure.
Brazil is 16 times the size of France and has a population of 194 million.