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France protests at US’s ‘unreasonable’ BNP Paribas fine

media BNP Paribas's building in Paris Reuters/Charles Platiau

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius has dubbed the US’s reported plan to fine French bank BNP Paribas 10 billion dollars (7.4 billion euros) “unreasonable” and warned it could affect negotiations for a transatlantic trade treaty.

In the first public comment by a French official, Fabius on Tuesday said that the reportedly planned fine was unjustifiably high.

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“If there was a fault, it’s natural that there be a punishment,” Fabius told France 2 TV. “But the punishment should be proportionate and reasonable. These figures are not reasonable.”

The US Justice Department has threatened to fine BNP Paribas 7.4 billion euros for breaking sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba, a report last week said.

France will defend the bank, Fabius said on Tuesday, adding that the row raises a “very, very big problem” in Europe’s negotiations with the US over a transatlantic trade partnership, TTIP.

"This trade partnership can be established only on a basis of reciprocity but here, we would have the example of an unjust and unilateral decision," he commented.

Bank of France governor Christian Noyer, the country top banking regulation official, went to New York last week to warn that such a big fine could not only hurt BNP, France’s biggest bank by capitalisation, but also the whole global economy, according to the New York Times.

Officials are worried that BNP might be temporarily banned from carrying out transactions in dollars, which would be a threat to its international client base.

Problems for BNP “would mean fewer loans to businesses, especially French ones”, Fabius argued.

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