Using his association's annual conference as a platform, Confederation of British Industry president Sir John Sunderland has launched a scathing attack on continental countries that engage in protectionist policies.

Reserving particular focus for recent developments in the energy sector, Mr Sunderland said, National governments have gone to great lengths to stave off the commercial realities of globalization.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) head’s comments refer to the recent French government-engineered merger plan between Gaz de France and Suez, which he argues was instigated to foil Enel’s hopes of buying Suez, and the Spanish government’s efforts to block E.ON’s move for Iberian power giant Endesa.

The hypocrisy of the situation is that both French and Spanish companies are free to buy up foreign companies. In fact, as Mr Sunderland points out, the Spanish government gives tax breaks to nationally registered companies that make an overseas acquisition. Such a tax break should be on its way to Iberdrola, which has just agreed a deal to buy ScottishPower.

While the CBI president has sympathy with Italian energy outfit Enel, he did not shy away from also heavily criticizing the Italian financial services sector, pointing out the domestic bias of the former head of the Bank of Italy Antonio Fazio, who was eventually ousted last December for effectively blocking foreign takeover bids.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunderland praised the openness of the UK market, where overseas companies spent $91.4 billion buying domestic firms in 2005.