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Published on March 23, 2015
Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the daily newspaper Les Echos (excerpts)

Paris, March 16, 2015

Q. – The number of international investment projects in France increased by 8% last year. What’s your analysis of this development?

THE MINISTER – What’s important is that the level of investment attained is the second highest in 10 years, which is positive. We’re attracting investment above all in strategic areas, for example in research and HQs. I’m also delighted about the diversity of the countries of origin: over half [of the investment] comes from Europe obviously, but 22% comes from North America and 12% from Asia.

Q. – On the other hand, this investment is generating fewer jobs…

THE MINISTER – Slightly fewer, but that’s understandable: the investment we’re attracting is high value-added and creates highly-skilled jobs. I also note that these jobs are being created throughout French territory.

Q. – How do you explain the apparent change in how the business world feels about France, which since 2012 has been associated with the 75% tax on very high incomes and a tax hike?

THE MINISTER – We must remain cautious about the figures, but I note that French-bashing has lost ground since the middle of last year. And this will probably become even more apparent in 2015. I travel all year round and see this: people no longer look at France in the same way. France is a major power, as everyone knows; the desire to carry out reforms is now understood, even though they’re difficult and often slow.

Q. – In your view, has an economic recovery been achieved in Europe and France?

THE MINISTER – Signs of recovery are indisputable. Throughout the world, it can be observed that Europe is experiencing a set of objective conditions favourable to its recovery: the drop in energy prices, a flexible monetary policy, low interest rates and a rapid fall in the euro. As for France, I repeat, it is no longer arousing the criticism it attracted last year. (…)

Q. – On the point about reforms between now and 2017, we hear more said about intentions than concrete projects…

THE MINISTER – We have to continue our action to modernize by focusing on business competitiveness.

Investment, training and labour market flexibility must be our priorities. These are the keys to new growth and thus jobs.

Q. – The Macron bill makes provision for the government itself to define international tourist zones – such as Boulevard Haussmann and Avenue Montaigne in Paris – in which labour would be largely facilitated. On what date would you like the new system to come into force?

THE MINISTER – As soon as possible; this summer would be good. This reform makes good sense. Today we receive 85 million foreign tourists every year and our target is 100 million. If everything is closed on Sundays, they won’t come back on Monday and will prefer London or elsewhere. I want as many of them as possible to choose France, as often as possible and for as long as possible./.