Tire baron sparks diplomatic row with comments about French work ethic

Taylor goes on to say he'd prefer to buy tire-makers in India and China and flood the French market with their cheap tires.

“Sir, letter states that you want to start a discussion,” he wrote. “How stupid do you think we are?”

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The letter drew an indignant response from Montebourg, who condemned Taylor's “extremist” and “insulting” words.

In the letter, Montebourg derides Titan's small market share and low profitability compared to French tire giant Michelin, and warns Taylor that European Union members are banding together to reject dumped tires and other products from low-wage countries. He then goes on to celebrate the “intense and passionate friendship” between France and the United States — from LaFayette to Normandy — before praising the Obama administration's own industrial policy.

“I must tell you how much the French government admires the policies put in place by President Obama,” Montebourg writes in French. “As minister in charge of industrial production, I am particularly conscious of his efforts to keep manufacturing jobs from going overseas and to invest locally. In fact, it so happens that our own policies share some kinship with those inspired by your own president.”