1st Warning on Cement for US Border Wall

LafargeHolcim Faces Warnings on Providing Cement for U.S. Border Wall3-10-17 1:51 PM EST

By Matthew Dalton

PARIS — French politicians are cautioning construction-materials giant LafargeHolcim Ltd. about the consequences of supplying cement for the 1,900-mile wall that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to build along the border with Mexico.

Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Friday said that companies such as LafargeHolcim must consider the ethical aftermath of their business deals, after the Franco-Swiss firm said it stands ready to work on the project.

“Being a private company, whose headquarters are mainly in Switzerland, does not free them from having an ethical conscience and asking questions before participating in certain projects,” Mr. Macron told Agence-France Presse.

The controversy underscores how Mr. Trump’s agenda is roiling political debates in countries around the world. In France, Mr. Macron has criticized Mr. Trump’s policies on climate change and immigration, casting himself as foil to the U.S. president, who is highly unpopular in France. In Germany, presidential candidate Martin Schulz has surged in the polls because of his outspoken stance against Mr. Trump.

LafargeHolcim, the world’s biggest cement producer, fell under scrutiny after Chief Executive Eric Olsen said last week in remarks published in several media outlets that the company stands ready to supply cement for the border wall. LafargeHolcim is one of the biggest cement producers in the U.S., with plants located near the border area.

“We’re the leader in cement,” Mr. Olsen said in an interview when asked about the wall. “Our responsibility is to help the U.S. in our role to build and develop its infrastructure. And we would intend to do that.”

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sharply criticized Mr. Olsen’s comments.

“I condemn Mr. Trump’s methods,” Mr. Ayrault said on French radio. “And for Lafarge, I remind it of its responsibilities.”

“Other clients in the world will look at this with shock,” Mr. Ayrault added.

The world’s second biggest cement producer, Mexican firm Cemex SAB, is also facing pressure at home to boycott the wall. The Mexican government has been a staunch opponent of Mr. Trump’s project.

Earlier this month, LafargeHolcim admitted to having paid various Syrian armed groups, including some that face international sanctions, to ensure the safety of a plant in territory that was controlled by Islamic State and its predecessor groups.

“In hindsight, the measures required to continue operations at the plant were unacceptable,” the company said.

Brian Blackstone in Zurich contributed to this article.

Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 10, 2017 13:51 ET (18:51 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.



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