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US shutdown 'could hinder French recovery'

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US shutdown 'could hinder French recovery'
American war cemeteries in France will remain closed during the US government shutdown. Photo: Neepster/Flickr
08:56 CEST+02:00
France's finance minister expressed concern on Wednesday that the US government shutdown could slow down the French economic recovery. Meanwhile US war cemeteries in France have been forced to close to visitors due to the deadlock in Washington DC but the embassy remains open as usual.

France’s Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the US budget blockage could slow down recovery in France, the French government spokeswoman said. 

“We expect more precise figures, but it would appear that each day of the deadlock leads to a material loss to the United States and thus affects its partners,” said spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem after the cabinet meeting.

“Moscovici said that the international environment for France has improved, and just as in the US the private sector demand has gained in strength but the absence of a political agreement in Congress, could slow the ongoing recovery,” said Vallaud-Belkacem.

Elsewhere the shutdown was having a more visible impact in France with military cemeteries housing American soldiers, including the famous D-Day burial sites, temporarily closed from Tuesday due to the US government shutdown.

The move affects some 20 cemeteries in France, Belgium, Britain, Italy, Tunisia and Mexico which serve as the final resting place for troops who died in landmark campaigns such as the Normandy D-Day landings, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) said on its website.

"Due to a lack of funding for ABMC operations (US government shutdown), ABMC cemeteries and memorials are temporarily closed," it said.

Several cemeteries including one in the western Paris suburb of Suresnes bore the same message in French and in English.

Normal operations will resume "when a new funding measure is passed by the US Congress and signed by the president of the United States," the ABMC said.

Christopher Palmer, a spokesman for the US embassy in Paris, confirmed the move but said the mission and consulates in the country will remain open.

A restaurant owner near the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the landing beaches of the Normandy invasion, expressed fears that her business would be hit.

The site, which houses the remains of more than 9,300 US troops, attracts more than one million visitors a year.

"Today there were people," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I had 80 to 90 people. Everybody was only talking about this, they didn't know.

Even the guides brought tourists.

"But if tomorrow, the cemetery is still closed it could have serious repercussions on our business."

At the American cemetery at Bony, containing the graves of 1,844 soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme during World War I and other operations, employees did not turn up for work, a worker said.

"But they will be paid because we are under French law," the worker said, joking that these were just "extra holidays".

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers in the US faced layoffs, and national parks and large swathes of government operations were closed due to the shutdown, sparked by the failure of the houses of Congress to agree a new budget.

It was the first shutdown in 17 years.

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