Macron hosts 140 CEOs in pre-Davos charm offensive

Tuesday January 23 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron pouts as he

French President Emmanuel Macron pouts as he delivers a speech before the President of France’s Court of Auditors and the court’s magistrates during the court’s solemn hearing to mark the beginning of the year, yesterday in Paris. PHOTO | AFP 

Paris. President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign for a “French Renaissance” kicks into overdrive Monday as he welcomed 140 multinational business leaders before this week’s jamboree of the rich and powerful in Davos.

The business-friendly president hosted executives at the Versailles chateau near Paris for an event billed as a warm-up for Tuesday’s opening of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountains. Several firms used the conference to announce major French investments, with Facebook revealing Monday that it would pour an extra $12.2 million into its artificial intelligence centre in Paris.

Japan’s Toyota was due to reveal details of its 400-million-euro enlargement of its Onnaing car factory in northern France -- which Macron will be visiting before the Versailles summit -- with Les Echos newspaper reporting the move will bring 700 new jobs. A former investment banker, Macron has vowed to shake the French economy out of its torpor. In his first months in office he pushed through reforms to the country’s rigid labour laws and sharply cut wealth taxes and levies on capital gains.

Economic growth has been forecast to rise to 1.9 percent in 2018 by the central bank, and Macron has also pledged to cut corporation tax to 25 percent by 2022 from 33 percent currently. A survey by the US Chamber of Commerce and consultancy Bain & Company in November found a record 72 percent of US investors were optimistic about the French economy, up from just 30 percent in 2016. But some executives are keeping their enthusiasm in check, saying the bigger challenges of cutting France’s huge debt pile and its public spending -- and pushing through the tax cuts for businesses -- still lie ahead. (AFP)