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20 May, 2018 12:33

‘US not economic gendarme of planet’: France suggests EU may compensate firms hit by US sanctions

France’s economy minister has suggested that the EU may compensate European companies affected by US sanctions on Iran, stressing that the bloc should not accept Washington as “the economic gendarme of the planet.”

Bruno Le Maire referred to a series of countermeasures that the EU adopted in 1996 in response to US extraterritorial economic sanctions against Cuba. Back then, Brussels argued that those sanctions benefited Washington’s foreign policy interests at the expense of EU sovereignty. The regulation aimed “to protect the economic and/or financial interests of natural or legal persons against the effects of the extraterritorial application of legislation.”

READ MORE: EU wants to 'replace' US after it ditched Iran nuclear deal. But can it?

“The reinforcement of the 1996 regulation would allow us to bear the costs of sanctions paid by [EU] companies and which could be paid by the European Union. We have a European budget which can help to protect our businesses,” Le Maire said, speaking to Europe 1 radio station on Sunday. 

The minister once again hit out at the US, which pulled out of a milestone 2015 deal earlier in May. The accord sought to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting decades-long sanctions and wider economic cooperation. The move was coupled with renewed restrictions targeting trade with Iran. “Are we going to allow the United States to be the economic policeman of the world? The answer is no,” Le Maire stated.

This is not the first tirade that the French economy minister has leveled against Washington after it ditched the much-discussed deal. He once urged Europe to stop acting like “US vassals” and branded Trump’s decision “an error” from an economic point of view, unrelated to international security. 

Le Maire earlier revealed that he had called his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin and asked him “about either exemptions for a number of our companies, or longer deadlines [to comply with renewed sanctions].” Plane-maker Airbus, oil giant Total, as well as Renault and Peugeot car manufacturers could be among the French companies affected the most. 

Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirming Tehran’s compliance with the deal on numerous occasions, and attempts by France, Germany and other EU nations to talk him out of the decision.

On Friday, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker stressed that the union would protect the interests of its companies that were investing in Iran as part of the EU's continued commitment to the deal. “As long as the Iranians respect their commitments, the EU will of course stick to the agreement of which it was an architect – an agreement that was unanimously ratified by the United Nations Security Council and which is essential for preserving peace in the region and the world,” Juncker said

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