PARIS (Reuters) - France is considering asking the European Union to place a trade agreement with South Korea under surveillance to limit a rising influx of South Korean vehicles into the bloc, French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Wednesday.
“In some segments, like small diesel cars, imports have increased by 1,000 percent in a year,” he told journalists.
“We are therefore justified in asking for surveillance measures that may at some point allow for a restriction clause, as it was the case in the past regarding American and Russian steel.”
Montebourg, who earlier unveiled a plan to support France’s struggling auto sector mainly through subsidies for environmentally friendly cars, said overall imports of South Korean cars into the European Union had increased by 40 percent between 2011 and 2012.
He said the rise had been spurred by a drop in import duties on South Korean cars from 10 percent to zero over five years.
To limit the effects of what Montebourg called “unfair competition”, France may ask the European Commission to place a trade deal between South Korea and the 27-member bloc under surveillance, he said.
“Our commercial policies can no longer be naive,” he added.
The two-month old Socialist government has vowed to try and revive France’s ailing industrial sector, hit this month by the news that top car maker Peugeot will close a factory near Paris and axe 8,000 jobs.
Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Ron Askew