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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany should not be surprised if defense companies feel more welcome elsewhere considering the sector is treated like 'smut' in Europe's biggest economy, Airbus Group (AIR.PA) Chief Executive Tom Enders told a German newspaper.
"In Germany, a well-known minister called it a 'shame' that the domestic defense industry is more or less successful. By contrast, the defense minister in France calls a press conference to happily announce that the industry has significantly increased its exports," daily Handelsblatt quoted Enders as saying in an interview published on Thursday.
In response to criticism of arms sales to unstable regions like the Middle East, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has taken a more cautious approach to approving exports.
On Tuesday, Enders told Reuters that Airbus was seriously considering basing new helicopter programs in France rather than Germany in the future after Germany blocked the export of military helicopters to Uzbekistan.
"If we are pushed into the smut category here in Germany, one shouldn't be surprised if companies act accordingly," Enders, an outspoken critic of the German government's stance on exports, told Handelsblatt when asked whether the atmosphere was better for defense firms in France than in Germany.
Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier