‘Yellow vests’ and strikes fail to put off foreign investors in France

'Yellow vests' and strikes fail to put off foreign investors in France
Not the image that France might want to present to the business world. Photo: AFP
A year of weekly 'yellow vest' protests - some violent - across France has not put off foreign businesses from investing in the country, new research has found.

The images of riot police out in force and restaurants burning on the Champs-Elysées were beamed around the world at the height of the 'yellow vest' protests, but despite this a survey of foreign investors in France has found that the movement has not shaken their confidence in the country.

As French president Emmanuel Macron tries hard to rebrand France as a country 'open for business' an Ipsos poll for Business France, the agency responsible for promoting France to foreign investors, found that 66 percent of businesses do not see an deterioration in France's image over the last year.

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Businesses were burned on the Champs-Elysées in March. Photo: AFP

And in fact 33 percent of the 200 foreign businesses operating in France who were surveyed found that the country's reputation has actually grown during 2019.

Although on a more cautious note, 39 percent said they had reconsidered a development project in France over the last year.

In his quest to make France more business-friendly, Macron has embarked on a series of changes to loosen restrictive employment practices in France, as well as promoting tech and start-up business, including with the creation of a start-up business fund financed by selling off state assets such as the Lottery.

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And 98 percent of the business leaders surveyed agreed that his reforms were helping them.

Foreign businesses in France contribute more than 25 percent of the country's Research & Development sector, and 33 percent of foreign exports.

As the French economy continues to grow and unemployment reaches a 10-year low, it is increasingly providing competition to Germany and the UK.

The next challenge facing France's reputation is the possibility of unlimited strikes in December against Macron's plans to reform the pension system.

READ ALSO 'Unlimited' strikes in December: What you need to know

When The Local asked France's government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye about this recently, she wryly acknowledged that France does have something of a reputation for striking, but said she believes the country remains attractive despite that.

She said: “France is well known for strikes, from time to time.

“But if you look at the economic data over recent years, it still shows that France is an attractive country to invest in.”

And 81 percent of the companies surveyed said they would continue to invest in France in the coming years.

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