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French press review 9 March 2018


US President Donald Trump dominates this morning's Paris papers, with praise for his diplomatic handling of the Korean crisis and condemnation of his steel tarrif barrier. A private American salvage company has offered to reopen the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Or are they looking for something else entirely?

The American President Donald Trump is to be seen wearing two different hats on this morning's front pages.

Right-wing Le Figaro has the US leader taking the risk of a trade war as he confirms his intention to tax imported steel and aluminium.

While some foundry owners have saluted the deal, the US business community in general has warned that the imposition of universal import tariffs will ultimately make American businesses less competitive and American consumers poorer.

The US Chamber of Commerce warned that the move to increase tariffs will lead to vast reprisals and weaken American manufacturing, without addressing the real problem, which, it says, is Chinese overproduction.

Le Figaro reminds readers that the last time a US government imposed a steel tax, in 2002 under George Doubya, the American economy slowed down and there was a net loss of jobs.

The Trade Partnership research group says the latest move will create 33,000 jobs in the steel sector but will cost 146,000 jobs in other parts of the US economy.

Trump says he wants American boats, planes and factories built with American steel.

Meeting could end North Korea's nuclear charge

Over at centrist daily Le Monde the US leader is being praised for his handling of the Korean nuclear crisis. This in the wake of an unconditional offer from the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of talks with the United States that could lead to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

No American president has ever met a North Korean leader.

Top French companies back in pre-crisis form

There are a lot of zeros on the front page of Le Monde this morning. Bbut they represent good news for the well-heeled owners of shares in the top 40 companies quoted on the Paris Stock Exchange.

Those companies, most of them as French as a fresh baguette, made combined profits of well over 93 billion euros last year, nearly 25 percent better than in 2016.

Le Monde says the companies at the top end of the scale are now returning profits at levels not seen since before the last global crisis in 2007.

The news is less good for the unfortunates who have to work to make those profits, with the European Central Bank warning that the failure of salaries to reflect the economic upturn and the decline of unemployment means that there's a real danger that the European machine could stall just as it finally farts into life again.

The European moneymen are, would you believe it, lamenting the fact that there's not a hint of inflation on the horizon. Because a touch of inflation, around about 2.0 percent would do nicely, is a sure sign of a healthy economy.

Expensive gamble or cynical calculation?

Also in Le Monde, news that an American salvage company has signed a contract with the Malaysian government to search for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared without trace four years ago.

Despite the largest underwater search operation ever taken, no sign of the missing aircraft has ever been found. That makes the terms of the latest contract even more difficult to understand. The Texan firm undertaking the new investigation will finance the entire operation itself and will not be paid a brass farthing if it fails to find the missing Boeing 777 in 90 days or less. In the event of success, the Malaysian authorities have promised to pay 57 million euros to be informed of the location of the plane.

The Texan company boasts on its website of having 90 years of experience but the business came into existence only last July and has no track record in the tiny world of specialised underwater research. It has, however, chartered a vessel with a crane capable of lifting 250 tonnes from a depth of 4,000 metres and has eight mini-submarines capable of descending to 6,000 metres.

Business insiders suggest that the real purpose of the latest search may be to recover valuables from shipping wrecks located by the previous search for MH370.

The vessel costs 100,000 euros per day to charter, and the specialist staff are very well paid. That's a big risk to take in a wild goose chase. Perhaps the Texans are not going to look for the missing plane at all.