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China Denies Involvement in Renault Corporate Espionage Scandal

Lisa Bryant | Paris 11 January 2011

China has denied involvement in industrial spying allegations swirling around French carmaker Renault. Three Renault executives have been suspended and the affair may damage French-Chinese ties.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said suggestions implicating China in alleged corporate espionage involving France's Renault carmaker were groundless, irresponsible and unacceptable.

French media and some politicians have floated allegations that Renault executives were supplying information on the company's electric cars to China in a scandal that has shaken France. A Chinese company that allegedly received the information reportedly deposited payments in foreign bank accounts.

The carmaker has suspended three top executives and there are reports they may be fired. The company says it plans to take legal action. The executives deny any wrongdoing. The auto industry is a key sector in France, employing 10 percent of the workforce.

With China's denial and a French government investigation underway, the scandal now threatens to become a state affair. In an interview on Europe 1 radio Tuesday, French government spokesman Francois Baroin sought to downplay the concerns.

Baroin said France was investigating the Renault issue. He said the government had not officially accused China or any other country of industrial espionage. He said Renault, like other companies, was a victim of an economic war and France wanted to protect its firms.

The allegations come at a time when France like other European countries has been actively courting Chinese trade and investment. Paris and Beijing have had rocky relations over the years, with tensions flaring over human rights issues and Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

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