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pride and prejudices

Paris Region president Valérie Pécresse is keen to inform would-be investors of the area's many charms, but is also aware that doing business in France comes with many preconceptions for outsiders. She explains to Sebastian Shehadi how these barriers are being broken down.

Q: Why is the Paris Region attracting so much FDI?

A: I think that there is a combination of factors, both national and local. The national ones include the political stability of a pro-business government. The image of France is often blurred by the idea that there is a political and legal instability and that the government is not pro-business. That was the case when [previous president] François Hollande said: ‘Finance is my enemy’, or when he said: ‘We will put an income tax of 75% on the highest incomes’, which was never implemented, but the [impact] was negative. The election of Emmanuel Macron and the arrival of a pro-business government is a great signal, alongside the reforms that have been started. 

In [the Paris Region] we’ve been putting all our [efforts] into welcoming businesspeople who want to invest in France. We opened a one-stop shop called Choose Paris Region, which is the first time the government and the region has worked hand in hand, and this is helping businesspeople to deal with all their procedures, or find schools and real estate. This is important because, administratively, France is often seen as [being too] bureaucratic. 

[Another] element is Brexit. People based in London want to have a foot inside the EU, and are thinking about relocating to continental Europe, which causes them to make comparisons. We have worked on these, especially to show them that a lot of prejudices about France are false; that we have one of the biggest real estate markets in Europe, that we are [one of the world’s top destinations for Fortune 500 companies], that we are also a huge financial market and the only capital city with 40% of national research based in the city and its suburbs. So we are a great region for innovation and industry. We offer also quality of life, with culture and restaurants. We are working a lot on transportation and international education.

Q: There is a perception that a lot of French people do not speak English.

A: Yes, one of our main flaws is the ability of French people to speak English. But we’re working very much on that aspect and the region is now financing a lot of vocational training for employees in order [to improve this situation]. If [companies] from an Anglo-Saxon or international background come to Paris they have to find employees who speak English. So we’re working very much on that and the region is responsible for all vocational training.

We are launching an innovative e-learning solution that will be available for free to all Paris Region citizens to... raise their level of English. My ambition is to have a multilingual region by 2021. That is why the government is helping me to open 1000 new positions in bilingual schools in the private and public system at the beginning of September 2018.

Q: Other than language, are there any other challenges?

A: Breaking the prejudices is still important: for instance, people have to know that the French non-dom regime is the most attractive in Europe, and this is a great advantage for us. At the regional level, we are working on transportation, in particular on a direct link which is being built between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris, and a metro line between Paris and Orly. We should also be working on the renovation of the Gare du Nord, which is a big hub for people coming from northern Europe.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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