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Hollande to woo foreign business

President welcomes foreign business leaders to Élysée in a bid to reverse the decline in foreign investment in France

François Hollande today welcomed the bosses of 30 foreign-owned companies operating in France to the Élysée Palace, as he launched a charm offensive to attract more foreign investment.

The business leaders were attending a meeting at which the President outlined promises to business to boost employment and investment, in line with his “responsibility pact”.

Mr Hollande was set to remind businesses of the government’s "business-friendly" reforms on tax and employment laws.

France’s economy grew 0.3% in 2013. The figure is better than expected but the government is hoping to attract foreign capital to give it added impetus.

According to figures released by the Élysée, 20,000 overseas-owned companies currently pump €504bn into the French economy and employ two million people.

The government wants to present France as a welcoming and business-oriented place for expatriates to live and work. It is working on projects such as the revival of the CDG Express, a direct train line between Paris and Roissy.

But some government policies, including the 75% tax rate for people earning more than €1m annually, have been blamed for a decline in overseas investment.

A United Nations report published in January said that overseas investment in France in 2013 was at its lowest level for 27 years, at a time when foreign investment in Europe as a whole was rising.

Minister for foreign trade Nicole Bricq admitted: “We know the battle is tough.”

She said that red tape would need to be relaxed to allow business people to head to France.

“It takes eight weeks for a Chinese businessman who wants to come to France to get a visa; for a Russian businessman it takes three weeks.

“This can be done more quickly and easily. We’re talking days not weeks.”

Yesterday, as part of the bid to woo business leaders, the bosses of multinational giants including Nestlé, Samsung and Volvo had dinner at Matignon with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and a dozen other ministers to “create a link” between business and government.

Last week, as part of his State visit to America, Mr Hollande unveiled new start-up measures for French businesses during a major speech in front of tech-company bosses at San Francisco’s Silicon Valley.

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