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Enough! ‘It’s time to stop sport of French-bashing’

The French must put an end to the culture of self-denigration and French expats need to stop "bashing" their home country, a government minister demanded on Tuesday as she called for a change of mentality to boost the economy.

Enough! 'It's time to stop sport of French-bashing'
French Minister Fleur Pellerin (right) looks around a showroom of Samsung Electronics in Seoul on March 26, 2013. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/ AFP

France needs a change in attitude and to stop being so down on itself, in order to boost the economy and create jobs, the French government minister for small businesses, Fleur Pellerin proclaimed on Tuesday.

A day after President François Hollande announced a raft of proposals aimed at wooing entrepreneurs and small and medium business owners, South Korea-born Pellerin said that as well as these financial measures, it was just as vital for the French to learn to be less hard on themselves.

“The French must stop this self-denigration. It has become a national sport,” Pellerin said in an interview with the daily 20 Minutes newspaper.

“And French bashing by our own citizens living abroad or by the opposition parties has a devastating effect on the image of the country and on its economy.

“I've had enough of this self-flagellation.”

Embattled President François Hollande and his Socialist government have been criticized in the past by those on the right, certain company bosses and even French actors like Gerard Depardieu. They point to his plan to levy a 75 percent tax rate on those earning over €1 million a year as a sign he is anti-business.

France should follow lead of United States

But on Monday the president made stern efforts to woo the world of business.

Speaking to a group of 300 entrepreneurs in Paris, Hollande laid out proposals to attract foreign investment into a country threatened with recession and suffering from dogged unemployment, and to help French firms expand abroad.

He also announced a new "entrepreneur visa" to be created for foreigners seeking to set up an innovative start-up in France if they invest a "sufficient amount" of money.

Pellerin believes France should follow the lead of the United States in doing more for those who want to start a business.

“In France the culture of entrepreneurs is underdeveloped. We need to encourage the younger generations to change their mentality so that each one of them can think ‘Why not me?’," she said.

“In the United States, the universities allow businesses to grow, like Facebook, for example, when it was created. In France we need not only to help students set up their project but also to boost the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

'Those who fail should not be punished'

Pellerin, also criticized the reaction in France towards those businesses that do not succeed and said measures needed to be taken to encourage failed entrepreneurs to have another go.

“In France, failure is inhibiting. There should be a right to rebound.”

“Only 13 percent of entrepreneurs who went bankrupt set up another business, despite the fact 70 percent would like to,” she said. “We must be able to wipe the slate clean after a first failure without being blacklisted.”

With France suffering under the weight of record unemployment rates, little or no growth and massive public debt, Hollande and his ministers have been under immense pressure to do more to kick start the ailing economy.

But Pellerin insists the Socialist government will do what it takes to improve competitiveness.

“We’re here to win the battle for jobs. For this we need dynamic companies that create jobs and can win a share in the international market. The left has understood that for a long time," she said.

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BUSINESS

French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

French authorities on Wednesday slapped a €90,000-per-day fine on e-commerce giant Amazon until it removes abusive clauses in its contracts with businesses using its platform to sell their goods.

French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

The anti-fraud Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) service said the online sales giant’s contracts with third-party sellers who use its Amazon.fr website contain “unbalanced” clauses.

“The company Amazon Services Europe did not comply completely with an injunction it was served and it is now subject to a fine of €90,000 per day of delay” in applying the changes, the DGCCRF said in a statement.

It also urged the platform to conform with European rules on equity and transparency for firms using online platforms.

Amazon said the order would harm consumers.

“The changes imposed by the DGCCRF will stop us from effectively protecting consumers and permit bad actors to set excessive prices or spam our clients with commercial offers,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement.

“We will comply with the DGCCRF’s decision but we absolutely do not understand it and we are challenging it in court,” responded the e-commerce giant in a statement.

Amazon said the clauses that the DGCCRF has ordered removed had, for example “prevented the appearance of exorbitant prices for mask and hydroalcoholic gel during the pandemic”.

In 2019, Amazon was fined €4 million for “manifestly unbalanced” contract clauses with third-party sellers on its site in a case brought by the DGCCRF.

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