“Invest in France month” Event New York – Speech by Laurent Fabius, Minister of foreign affairs and international development (01.10.15)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for being here. I’m in New York for the General Assembly week. I wanted to be with you this morning to launch an operation that my country is conducting in 50 countries around the world, which we’ve named “Invest In France Month”. Like here this morning, our ambassadors in 50 countries have met or are going to meet economic decision-makers, like you, in order to present and discuss France’s strengths. There are many of them. I’ll come back to that.

In the United States, we would like to strengthen our already very dynamic economic relations. The US is the leading foreign investor in France. It is also the largest foreign employer. But we can do more to attract even more American investment to France.

France has many strengths: our geography, our culture, our demography, our creativity, and of course our… gastronomy! All of that makes France a unique and attractive country.

Some people talk about decline, but I don’t know if there are many countries that have received in the same year the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the Fields Medal for Mathematics.

We defend France’s uniqueness because that’s where its strength lies, but we are often the first to criticize our own country, which isn’t the best way to attract foreign investors, I admit.

We’ve decided to promote these strengths more actively through this “Invest in France Month” road show, but also through the “Creative France” campaign, coordinated by our agency Business France. It will be launched on Monday in Tokyo by the French Prime Minister. Furthermore, some of you have been able to take part in the “Best of France” event, which I had the honor of inaugurating last Saturday. Broadway was painted in the colors of French excellence in all areas: the high-tech industry, tourism, art, fashion, gastronomy and wine, etc.

I would like to tell you what we’ve done, what we are continuing to do for foreign investors, especially American investors.

France is an economy at the heart of Europe and is open to the world. Every week, 19 firms decide to invest in France. Our infrastructure ranks among the most efficient in the world. For example, Amazon chose to establish its logistics centers for Europe in France. Facebook announced at the beginning of June 2015 that it would establish an artificial intelligence research center in Paris. The software company Salesforce inaugurated a research and development center just a few steps from the Eiffel Tower in June 2015. Like Intel, which has just opened its first European research center devoted to big data.

France is now a sought-after destination for major technology companies seeking to open research centers. The quality of our labor force goes without saying. Its productivity is as high as that of our German neighbors, and we are proud of France’s excellent academics and researchers. Since the creation of the Fields medal, it has been won by no fewer than 12 French mathematicians. We have good schools, we are known for high-caliber research, and we now have very effective tax incentives to promote research and innovation, as well as internationally renowned competiveness clusters. Finally, I want to emphasize that France offers lower set-up costs than in the United States. The cost of establishing a company is lower than it is in our partner co
untries, and we have Europe’s lowest electricity costs.

Can we do better? Of course. We all know that international competition is becoming stronger, and that it concerns all sectors: trade, investment, higher education, research and tourism. We know that the mobility of international capital and talented people is growing. In this context, I want to make it clear that France has chosen reform and openness to the world.

Our motto is reform. We strive to do better to make France a more attractive “site” for foreign investors. That is the purpose of the economic policy that we conduct. We know that three areas are essential for investors, and that these three areas are ones in which France can improve: taxation, labor law and the administrative framework.

Tax policy should send clear signals. Our tax credit for competitiveness and employment has led to a decrease in corporate tax of up to 6% of payroll. We have exonerated companies from employers’ social security contributions for employees on the minimum wage. We have begun to decrease the corporate tax rate. We have lowered the cost of doing business. All in all, some 40 billion euros have been earmarked to ease companies’ production costs. Never before has such an effort been made.

Concerning the regulation of the labor market, the Government is pursuing its efforts to make it simpler and more flexible, more growth-friendly. We have already adopted reforms aimed at improving social dialogue and simplifying the collective redundancy procedure, which now has a shorter time frame and better meets companies’ needs.

Lastly, as regards the administrative framework, an unprecedented simplification approach has been initiated. We have increased the number of one-stop contact points. We have simplified accounting obligations. We have strengthened the legal certainty of procedures, especially in tax matters. We are working tirelessly to simplify administrative procedures and make the institutional environment easier to understand.

In parallel to these major economic policy choices, we are also taking action with a series of targeted measures to enhance our attractiveness.

I will give you an example: during this year we will establish a specific, four-year residence permit, issued after a simplified administrative process, especially for international entrepreneurs and business managers. This so called “Talent Passport” will simplify the process of settling in France.

We are doing a lot, but what we are doing is not always seen outside our borders.

I will conclude with a few more words on the subject of innovation, the true engine of growth today.

With “French Tech,” we have an effective tool to support the start-ups and talents that are paving the way to the future, particularly internationally. In this regard, I want to applaud the commitment and hard work of the community of French start-uppers in New York who, with the help of our various agencies, have built the New York French Tech Hub, a veritable bridge between the innovation ecosystems of France and New York.

As part of this initiative, we have just created a mechanism to motivate young talents who wish to create a start-up in France to move to our country. It’s called the French Tech Ticket, and it combines an award, office space in a business incubator, and help with obtaining a residence permit.

This is a concrete example of the sort of things we want to do: to get French entrepreneurs involved in promoting our innovation ecosystem, and to bring entrepreneurs to France by providing them with concrete, helpful services based on their needs. It must not be forgotten that France invented the word “entrepreneur”

I imagine that that’s exactly what inspired French entrepreneurs to come here. Some are here this morning, and I want to thank them. You are the products of our high-quality education system, our innovation ecosystem, and you are also its ambassadors. Your success is remarkable; it is the embodiment of a successful France. And I want us to be capable of creating value in France, just like you are doing here.

I have already spoken for too long. My goal today is not to give a lecture, but to listen to your advice and try to answer your critical comments. That is why I am very much looking forward to hearing about the experiences of three very distinguished speakers, Jean-Christophe Flatin (president of Mars Chocolate), Leonard Levie (chairman of AIAC) and Loic Moisand (CEO of Synthesio).

I am sure that these experiences will add to my demonstration of why smart investors choose France or why they should do so.

Thank you very much for your attention.