May 28, 2020 / 2:18 PM / in a month

Spain aims to convince Nissan to change mind on Barcelona plant, hopes Renault stays

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will do everything it can to get Nissan (7201.T) to reverse its decision to close its Barcelona plant, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Thursday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya reacts during an interview with Reuters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid, Spain, May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Leaving the country would be expensive for the Japanese carmaker, Gonzalez Laya also said in an interview with Reuters.

Nissan announced on Thursday it would shut the plant, which employs about 3,000 workers, from December as part of a global restructuring plan to slash costs.

“We regret it and we will do everything we can to overturn that,” Gonzalez Laya said.

The government had been making proposals to company over the past days and weeks and would keep trying to convince it, she said.

“We still believe even with their announcement that there is a way to continue this dialogue,” she said.

The government has estimated that shutting its Barcelona plant could cost Nissan more than 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion) and has said t it would be less expensive for Nissan to stay.

“There is a penalty to be paid by the company for moving out of Spain, it’s stipulated in the contract that Nissan has with Spain,” Gonzalez Laya said, without giving any details.

A foreign ministry official said Gonzalez Laya was refering to operating costs.

Gonzalez Laya said the government’s main concern was preserving jobs at the plant. The workforce is about 3,000 people but about 25,000 could be indirectly affected.

“We have to continue fighting for it, which is what we will do. First with Nissan because at the end of the day our interlocutor today is Nissan, but maybe with other interlocutors,” she said.

Gonzalez Laya also expressed frustration with Nissan.

“It is a company that at the beginning of the year has assured us that employment and operations in Barcelona would remain,” she said.

She also said the government was awaiting a decision from Renault (RENA.PA) on its plants in Spain. Those plants are “state of the art” and she hoped this would convince the carmaker to remain invested in Spain, she said.

Reporting by Belen Carreno and Ingrid Melander, Additional reporting by Paola Luelmo, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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