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France, Japan vow to save auto pact amid Ghosn controversy

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire shakes hands with Japan's Minister of Economy, Hiroshige Seko after a meeting around Renault-Nissan following the arrest of its Chairman Carlos Ghosn in Japan on suspicions of misuse of company funds, in Paris, France
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire shakes hands with Japan's Minister of Economy, Hiroshige Seko after a meeting around Renault-Nissan following the arrest of its Chairman Carlos Ghosn in Japan on suspicions of misuse of company funds, in Paris, France REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Paris and Tokyo have reiterated their commitment to keeping the Renault-Nissan alliance alive, despite the Japanese carmaker's decision to fire its emblematic chairman Carlos Ghosn over allegations of financial misconduct.

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The alliance will not crumble, Economy Ministers Bruno Le Maire and Hiroshige Sek insisted in a joint statement after meeting in Paris.

The future of the Renault-Nissan pact was thrown into balance this week when its chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan on allegations that he had under-reported his salary by billions of yen to pay less tax.

Nissan's board directors ousted him in response.

In France however, authorities have been more cautious in pointing the blame at Ghosn, who has been instrumental in piecing together the auto alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.

The Brazilian-born French tycoon is currently in a Tokyo jail awaiting charges.

His treatment has raised eyebrows in France. The daily Républicain Lorrain reported that politicians, such as the former socialist minister for industry Arnaud Montebourg, suspect that Ghosn was the victim of a conspiracy aimed at halting a potential Nissan-Renault merger he had been planning, which would have given Renault an upper hand.

Fears of conspiracy

Nissan insisted Ghosn's arrest followed several months of internal investigation following allegations from a whistleblower.

However, the swiftness with which the carmaker's President and Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa savaged Ghosn's legacy, describing it as "dark" and greedy, underscores the tensions that existed between the two men over Ghosn's plans to merge both companies into a conventional car firm.

Those fears were dismissed by Saikawa in a letter to his workers Friday.

"In these difficult times, we must work closer together more than ever," he told AFP, adding that he would convene a staff meeting on Monday, 26 November.

Elsewhere, Renault's interim chairman Thierry Bollore has also sought to reassure workers, worried about the fallout of the crisis for them.

"I will do everything to ensure the stability of the group and that we maintain our activities," he told 180,000 Renault workers in a video posted on Twitter.

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