Choose France summit kicks off with big hopes for foreign investment


France rolls out the red carpet to some 180 business leaders on Monday at the annual international business summit aimed at wooing foreign investors. Buoyed up by recent data showing France remains the most attractive country in Europe, the presidency has promised record investments, though there is growing competition from a reinvigorated Britain.

President Emmanuel Macron hosts the Choose France summit at Versailles Palace – a royal venue designed to encourage princely sums, and his office announced Monday morning that France has secured €15 billion euros of foreign investments in 56 different projects, including €4 billion from Microsoft, €1.2 billion from Amazon and €1 billion each from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

The amount is up from last year, when some 28 projects were announced, worth a total of €13 billion.

This year's slogan "France, land of champions", builds on the buzz around the upcoming Paris Olympics which starts on 26 July.

Timely news

The recent EY barometer comforted France's position as European champion for foreign investment. For the fifth year running, France topped the list ahead of the UK and Germany.

“This extremely important news validates all the efforts and reforms that have been carried out since 2017,” the presidential office said about the ranking.

Macron came to power in 2017 on a business-friendly platform and has overseen reforms to the labour code, a reduction in corporation tax, a law to help businesses grow (Pacte) and initiatives such as the 100-billion-euro France Relance programme.

While the tally of investment projects in France dropped by 5 percent in 2023 – with a total of 1,194 – foreign companies created 4 percent more jobs (40,000) compared to the year before.

The EY survey showed France is also leading in 11 out of 15 sectors, including pharmaceuticals, automobile, electronics, logistics, and industrial equipment.

France is going big on artificial intelligence – 17 AI projects were up and running in 2023 and more are in the pipeline.

On Friday the multinational technology company IBM announced it planned to invest €45 million in developing quantum computing at its AI research lab near Paris.

Nuanced picture

However, the picture is not all rosy. Geopolitical tensions, notably the war in Ukraine, risk undermining confidence within the international business community.

Laurent Saint-Martin, the CEO of Business France, told Le Monde daily newspaper the context for international investment was tense.

Meanwhile, data compiled by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that foreign direct investment projects in Europe fell by 20 percent in 2023, compared to a rise of 2 percent in the US, and 8 percent in China.

The EY report also showed that the average number of jobs created or maintained per project in France is lower than in Germany, Britain and Spain.

Britain back in business?

France will also have to watch out for Britain, which appears to have recovered from the shock of Brexit.

Britain overtook Germany to take second place in the EY barometer, with the number of foreign investment projects up by 6 percent in 2023.

Figures published on Friday showed Britain's economy grew by the most in nearly three years in the first quarter of 2024, ending the shallow recession it entered in the second half of last year.

Marc Lhermitte, partner at EY, told Le Monde:  “When people say that France has won the Brexit battle, that's not entirely true," pointing out that "there are still 500,000 finance-related jobs in Greater London, and [Britain] is are also very strong in the digital industry and the service sector."