TOKYO/PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to maintain the alliance among French carmaker Renault S.A., Japan's Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. when the two leaders met in Buenos Aires in late November, following the arrest of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn for allegedly underreporting his executive pay, according to individuals linked to the Japanese government.
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Abe did not make any remark that could be construed as accepting the request, those people said. Macron also showed concern for Ghosn's physical condition in detention, they added.
During the Japanese-French talks held for about 15 minutes on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit of major economies on Nov. 30, Macron asked Abe to "maintain the current form of the tripartite alliance," they said. The French government, which has a 15-percent stake in Renault, wants to maintain its influence over the alliance.
In response, Abe said the matter is "not something the government decides on," so that the French side would not think their request had been accepted, those people said.
Prior to the summit, French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said his Japanese counterpart Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko had agreed that the status quo is desirable during a meeting in Paris on Nov 22. Seko sent a letter of complaint denying the French statement. Because of this incident, the Japanese side "had made detailed preparations" to avoid the French side stretching the meaning of Abe statements, according to those individuals.
Macron also conveyed his concerns about Ghosn's health condition, and asked Abe about Japan's criminal prosecution system. Abe responded by saying, "(The investigation) is proceeding properly."
Macron is eager to maintain the current auto alliance as Nissan makes half the profit Renault receives, and changing the setup would affect the French economy and deal a political blow to the president, whose support is falling.
(Japanese original by Akiko Kato and Mikako Yokoyama, Business News Department; Isamu Gaari, Paris Bureau)