* Sapin says countries with surpluses should loosen purse
* Says Greek bailout review should be concluded by year-end
* Calls planned U.S., UK corporate tax cuts unacceptable
(Adds more quotes, details)
By Michel Rose
PARIS, Dec 1 France threw its support behind the
European Commission's call for fiscal stimulus on Thursday,
pushing back against euro zone fiscal hawks like Germany over
whether some countries should ease budget discipline.
Two weeks ago, the commission - the executive branch of the
European Union - called for Germany and other countries to
loosen their budgets to create more growth and jobs, a plea also
aimed at addressing the rise of populist parties in Europe.
A shift towards moderately expansionary budget stances would
mark a reversal of EU policy, which has stressed fiscal
discipline for most of the bloc's existence.
"I want to say how much I support the European Commission's
approach," Finance Minister Michel Spain told Reuters in an
interview. "The countries which are currently running a surplus
must take a more dynamic position, and they know it very well,
even if they don't like to be reminded about it."
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a veteran member
of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and a fiscal hawk,
criticised the commission's plea last week, saying it was
directed at the wrong country.
His Dutch counterpart supported his position, saying the
commission should focus on enforcing EU budget rules rather than
proposing fiscal stimulus.
Sapin said the call for more spending in surplus countries
did not mean France was asking for more leeway in its own plans
to reduce its budget deficit.
"France is even more keen to defend this position since it
considers it will have no particular consequence on its own
situation," he said. "We must continue to cut our deficits."
Sapin's ruling Socialists face a presidential election next
year that polls show they are likely to lose.
Francois Fillon, the free-market conservative who has secured
the nomination of Les Republicains, favours public-sector job
cuts and tax cuts that could initially put a strain on the
GREEK BAILOUT REVIEW
The French finance minister, who was speaking during a visit
to Russia before a Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on
Dec. 5, also called on his euro zone peers to conclude the
latest review of Greece's bailout.
"We have a window of opportunity by the end of the year, we
must use it," he said.
Backing measures proposed by the bloc's bailout fund to
reduce Greek debt before 2018, Sapin said they could be
implemented quickly and that longer-term measures should be
discussed at the Dec. 5 meeting.
"It will be a clear signal given to the Greek people and the
Greek government so they can continue their efforts," he said.
Sapin also said Britain's decision to cut corporate taxes
and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's plans to do the same
were unacceptable and amounted to fiscal dumping.
"What Britain says on this subject is unacceptable," Sapin
said. "In the United States, a certain number of announcements
in this regard are not positive or beneficial to international
Britain has outlined measures to cut corporation tax to 17
percent by 2020. Trump has proposed cutting corporate tax to 15
percent from 35 percent and allowing corporations to repatriate
overseas profits at a 10 percent rate.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Ingrid
Melander, Larry King)