The government of France has called on LafargeHolcim, the Franco-Swiss cement giant, to "think carefully" about whether it wanted to become involved in constructing US President Donald Trump’s 2,000-mile border wall against Mexico.
The admonition follows a remark made to Agence France-Presse by Eric Olsen, the chief executive of the company. He said:Â "We are ready to supply our construction materials for all types of infrastructure projects in the US, including this one. We have no political opinion."
This brought the warning from Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister, who told France Info radio: "Lafarge should reflect upon what its interests are. There are other clients who will be stunned by this. It says it doesn’t do politics. Very well, but I would say companies also have social and environmental responsibilities."
President Hollande commented during an EU summit meeting in Brussels that "there are some markets you should be cautious about jumping into".
LafargeHolcim has recognised that the issue is controversial, however Le Monde reports that the board of directors has given its blessing to the company’s bid to win work on the wall. They have argued that the project is legal, that it represents a lot of work, that it will improve the company’s position in the US market and, finally, that other companies have already declared an interest.
One of the big early winners from the wall is Mexican cement produced Cemex, the second biggest producer after Lafarge. Its shares hit an eight-and-a-half year high in January as President Trump confirmed that he was going ahead with the scheme.
Another possible bidder, Irish firm CRH, ruled itself out earlier this month, despite being the biggest materials supplier in the US.
The French government has confirmed that it is investigating Lafarge over alleged illegal activities in Syria following European Union (EU) sanctions that were imposed in 2012. Last week the company acknowledged that one of its plants had probably paid protection money to Islamic State.
Image: Eric Olsen, chief executive of LafargeHolcim (Lafarge)