BRUSSELS (AP) -- The EU's top antitrust official on Wednesday warned against a "Buy France" clause in French government help for car makers.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said France would break EU law if it demanded that car makers buy only French car parts or invest only in France in return for government aid.
France is promising to give car makers such as Renault SA or PSA Peugeot-Citroen subsidies of up to euro6 billion (up to $8 billion) -- on top of euro1.3 billion it has already given. Newspaper reports said that the government wanted companies to commit to keeping jobs in France.
Kroes said France could help pay for job training or offer payments to encourage car buyers to scrap old models in favor of more fuel-efficient cars -- as Germany has done.
But she said government subsidies could not be used to favor French companies over rivals elsewhere in Europe.
"It would not be in the interest of France, of French car makers or of any member state to see a resurgence of protectionism in Europe," she said after meeting with French Industry Minister Luc Chatel.
"Raising barriers within Europe cannot be the way out to this crisis and we need to make that clear," she said in a statement.
She warned that adding such conditions to France's existing bailout for car makers could see that outlawed by EU regulators.
The EU statement said Chatel had outlined France's plans to help the car sector. It said he had promised that they would not be protectionist and would respect EU rules.
Car manufacturers are pleading for billions in soft loans and government handouts to survive slumping sales and help them build greener cars that meet stricter environmental standards.
European car companies say they expect to sell 15 percent fewer cars this year. They warn that they need government help to keep employing 2.2 million people in Europe. Another 10 million workers rely on the industry.