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As the world watched the conclusion of G20, the focus of the globe gradually shifted to Paris, which was set to host Boao’s 2011 International Conference. France has long been characterized as a nation of romance. The world has long since embraced Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, but his work is historic. What about today? What about its modern economy and foreign investment environment?
Reporters from China Pictorial (CP) jumped at the chance to learn more about France when Pascal Gondrand, chief representative counsel of the Invest in France Agency (IFA) attended a trade fair in Beijing.
CP: First of all, thank you very much, Mr. Gondrand, for sharing your time with us. Could you please tell us what IFA is about?
Gondrand: My pleasure. Invest in France Agency, or IFA, is a non-government organization that promotes and facilitates international investments in France. Its network operates worldwide. IFA works in partnership with regional development agencies to offer international investors business opportunities and customized services all over France.
CP: Over the last few years, the French government has been brainstorming how to attract entrepreneurs from Asia, particularly from China, to invest in your country. So, what is France’s strength or advantage compared to investing in other European countries? Could you tell us something about current Chinese investors in your country?
Gondrand: International companies which choose France benefit from its strategic position at the heart of Europe - a single market in the world that provides access to over 500 million consumers. As a member of the Euro-zone, it enjoys the advantages of a single currency for 17 different countries.
With 65 million inhabitants, France is the second-largest consumer market in Europe trailing only Germany, the fifth-largest economy in the world, and the fourth largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the world in 2010.
In a climate marked by worldwide decline of FDI flows, IFA and France's regional development agencies completed 782 new job-creating foreign investment projects, nearly the same number as 2010, which was an increase of 22.4 percent over 2009 (639 projects). We created nearly 30,000 jobs by creating or maintaining these new investments.
France’s leading industrial giants have a strong global presence. Of the world’s 200 largest companies, 35 are French, and the other European enterprises are German and British.
France has long been open to in-bound investment. Over 20,000 foreign companies currently operate bases in France, employing over 2 million people. Foreign companies are responsible for one-third of all French exports and account for 22 percent of all corporate research and development in France.
France’s importance can also be seen in its hosting of international events. After Vienna and Barcelona, Paris hosts more international conferences than any city in the world.
There is much to say about Chinese investors in France. In 2009, the number of new projects was 22; and a year later, it reached 35, covering various sectors including finance, chemicals, IT, and telecommunications. Many Chinese giants have branch offices there, such as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, Bluestar Group, Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, and Weichai Power.