File - Employees prepare a Citroen C4 Cactus car displayed at French carmaker Citroen's showcase for the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
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When Britain lost its last native car company 20 years ago, it was lamented across the political spectrum as a national catastrophe.In 1994 French producers made more than 3 million cars, double Britain's output.Britain last year produced more cars than France for the first time in decades: 1.51 million to France's 1.46 million.The value of British car exports has doubled in the past 10 years, and this year Britain enjoyed its best-ever July for automobile exports since industry records began in the 1920s.In August, French manufacturing shrank at its steepest rate in 15 months and President Francois Hollande recently said the country will miss public deficit targets.In France and Britain, political and economic policies are wide apart, but the case against government involvement in the auto industry is not black and white. Over the past decade, neither Britain's laissez-faire approach nor France's interventionism have reversed a decline of more than a third in the auto industry's direct employment, to 161,000 and 201,000 jobs, respectively.In Britain, that has changed: Car industry employment is now rising.
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