France and Monaco
France welcomes foreign investment and has a stable business climate that attracts investors from around the world. The French government devotes significant resources to attracting foreign investment through policy incentives, marketing, overseas trade promotion offices, and investor support mechanisms. France has an educated population, first-rate universities, and a talented workforce. It has a modern business culture, sophisticated financial markets, a strong intellectual property rights regime, and innovative business leaders. The country is known for its world-class infrastructure, including high-speed passenger rail, maritime ports, extensive roadway networks, a dense network of public transportation, and efficient intermodal connections. High-speed (3G/4G) telephony is nearly ubiquitous, and France has begun its 5G roll-out in key metropolitan cities.
In 2021, the United States was the leading foreign investor in France in terms of new jobs created (10,118) and second in terms of new projects invested (247). The total stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in France reached $91 billion. More than 4,500 U.S. firms operate in France, supporting over 500,000 jobs, making the United States the top foreign investor overall in terms of job creation.
Following the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, the French government implemented significant labor market and tax reforms. By relaxing the rules on companies to hire and fire employees, the government cut production taxes by 15 percent in 2021, and corporate tax will fall to 25 percent in 2022. Surveys of U.S. investors in 2021 showed the greatest optimism about the business operating environment in France since 2008. Macron’s reform agenda for pensions was derailed in 2018, however, when France’s Yellow Vest protests—a populist, grassroots movement for economic justice—rekindled class warfare and highlighted wealth and, to a lesser extent, income inequality.
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 shifted Macron’s focus to mitigating France’s most severe economic crisis in the post-war era. The economy shrank 8.3 percent in 2020 compared to the year prior, but with the help of unprecedented government support for businesses and households, economic growth reached seven percent in 2021. The government’s centerpiece fiscal package was the €100 billion ($110 billion) France Relance plan, of which over half was dedicated to supporting businesses. Most of the support was accessible to U.S. firms operating in France as well. The government launched a follow-on investment package in late 2021 called “France 2030” to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity, and accelerate the ecological transition.
Also in 2020, France increased its protection against foreign direct investment that poses a threat to national security. In the wake of the health crisis, France’s investment screening body expanded the scope of sensitive sectors to include biotechnology companies and lowered the threshold to review an acquisition from a 25 percent ownership stake by the acquiring firm to 10 percent, a temporary provision set to expire at the end of 2022. In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction, which included the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector. In early 2021, the French government threated to block the acquisition of French supermarket chain Carrefour by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard, which eventually scuttled the deal.
Key issues to watch in 2022 are: 1) the impact of the war in Ukraine and measures by the EU and French government to mitigate the fallout; 2) the degree to which COVID-19 and resulting supply chain disruptions continue to agitate the macroeconomic environment in France and across Europe, and the extent of the government’s continued support for the economic recovery; and 3) the creation of winners and losers resulting from the green transition, the degree to which will be largely determined by firms’ operating models and exposure to fossil fuels.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
3. Legal Regime
4. Industrial Policies
5. Protection of Property Rights
6. Financial Sector
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The 11 listed entities in which the French State maintains stakes at the federal level are Aeroports de Paris (50.63 percent); Airbus Group (10.92 percent); Air France-KLM (28.6 percent); EDF (83.88 percent), ENGIE (23.64 percent), Eramet (27.13 percent), La Française des Jeux (FDJ) (20.46 percent), Orange (a direct 13.39 percent stake and a 9.60 percent stake through Bpifrance), Renault (15.01 percent), Safran (11.23 percent), and Thales (25.67 percent). Unlisted companies owned by the State include SNCF (rail), RATP (public transport), CDC (Caisse des depots et consignations) and La Banque Postale (bank). In all, the government maintains majority and minority stakes in 88 firms in a variety of sectors.
Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including from state-owned banks or other state-owned investment vehicles. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. SOEs may get subsidies and other financial resources from the government.
France, as a member of the European Union, is party to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization. Companies owned or controlled by the state behave largely like other companies in France and are subject to the same laws and tax code. The Boards of SOEs operate according to accepted French corporate governance principles as set out in the (private sector) AFEP-MEDEF Code of Corporate Governance. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report, and the French Court of Audit conducts financial audits on all entities in which the state holds a majority interest. The French government appoints representatives to the Boards of Directors of all companies in which it holds significant numbers of shares, and manages its portfolio through a special unit attached to the Ministry for the Economy and Finance Ministry, the shareholding agency APE (Agence de Participations de l’Etat). The State as a shareholder must set an example in terms of respect for the environment, gender equality and social responsibility. The report also highlighted that the State must protect its strategic assets and remain a shareholder in areas where the general interest is at stake.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
The business community has general awareness of standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) in France. The country has established a National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, coordinated and chaired by the Directorate General of the Treasury in the Ministry for the Economy and Finance. Its members represent State Administrations (Ministries in charge of Economy and Finance, Labor and Employment, Foreign Affairs, Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy), six French Trade Unions (CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, UNSA) and one employers’ organization, MEDEF.
The NCP promotes the OECD Guidelines in a manner that is relevant to specific sectors. When specific instances are raised, the NCP offers its good offices to the parties (discussion, exchange of information) and may act as a mediator in disputes, if appropriate. This can involve conducting fact-finding to assist parties in resolving disputes, and posting final statements on any recommendations for future action with regard to the Guidelines. The NCP may also monitor how its recommendations are implemented by the business in question. In April 2017, the French NCP signed a two-year partnership with Global Compact France to increase sharing of information and activity between the two organizations.
In France, corporate governance standards for publicly traded companies are the product of a combination of legislative provisions and the recommendations of the AFEP-MEDEF code (two employers’ organizations). The code, which defines principles of corporate governance by outlining rules for corporate officers, controls and transparency, meets the expectations of shareholders and various stakeholders, as well as of the European Commission. First introduced in September 2002, it is regularly updated, adding new principles for the determination of remuneration and independence of directors, and now includes corporate social and environmental responsibility standards. The latest amendments in February 2019 tackle the remuneration and post-employment benefits of Chief Executive Officers and Executive Officers: 60 percent variable remuneration based on quantitative objectives and 40 percent on quality objectives, including efforts in the corporate social responsibility.
Also relating to transparency, the EU passed a new regulation in May 2017 to stem the trade in conflict minerals and, in particular, to stop conflict minerals and metals from being exported to the EU; to prevent global and EU smelters and refiners from using conflict minerals; and to protect mine workers from being abused. The regulation goes into effect January 1, 2021, and will then apply directly to French law.
France has played an active role in negotiating the ISO 26000 standards, the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. France has signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), although, it has not yet been fully implemented. Since 2017, large companies based in France and having at least 5,000 employees are now required to establish and implement a corporate plan to identify and assess any risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, workers’ health, safety, and risk to the environment from activities of their company and its affiliates.
The February 2017 “Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law” requires large companies to set up, implement, and publish a “vigilance plan” to identify risks and prevent “serious violations” of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and serious environmental damage.
In 2021, France enacted a Climate and Resilience Law covering consumption and food, economy and industry, transportation, housing, and strengthening sanctions against environmental violations. The production and work chapter aligns France’s national research strategy with its national low carbon and national biodiversity strategies. All public procurement must consider environmental criteria. To protect ecosystems, the law amends several mining code provisions, including the requirement to develop a responsible extractive model. The law translates France’s multi-year energy program into regional renewable energy development objectives, creates the development of citizen renewable energy communities, and requires installation of solar panels or green roofs on commercial surfaces, offices, and parking lots. The consumption chapter requires an environmental sticker and inscription to better inform consumers of a product or service’s impact on climate. The law bans advertising of fossil fuels by 2022 and advertising of the most carbon-emitting cars (i.e., those that emit more than 123 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer) by 2028. The law also empowered local authorities with mechanisms to reduce paper advertisements and regulate electronic advertising screens in shop windows. Large- and medium-sized stores (i.e., those with over 400 square meters of sales area) must devote 20 percent of their sales area to bulk sales by 2030. In the agriculture sector, the law sets annual emissions reduction levels concerning nitrogen fertilizers; failure to meet these objectives will trigger a tax beginning in 2024. The law’s transportation chapter extends France’s 2019 Mobility law by creating 33 low-emission zones in urban areas that have more than 150,000 inhabitants by the end of 2024, and bans cars manufactured before 1996 in these large cities. In the top 10 cities that regularly exceed air quality limits on particulates, the law will ban vehicles that have air quality certification stickers of above a certain level. The law requires regions to offer attractive fares on regional trains, bans domestic flights when there is train transportation of less than 2.5 hours, requires airlines to conduct carbon offsetting for domestic flights beginning in 2022, and creates carpool lanes. The law creates a road ecotax starting in 2024, prohibits the sale of new cars that emit more than 95 gram of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2030 and of new trucks, buses, and coaches with 95 gCO2/km emissions by 2040, and provides incentives to develop bicycle paths, parking areas, and rail and waterway transport.
The Climate and Resilience Law’s housing chapter seeks to accelerate the environmental renovation of buildings. Starting in 2023, owners of poorly insulated housing must undertake energy renovation work if they want to increase rent rates. The law forbids leasing non-insulated housing beginning in 2025 and bans leasing any type of poorly insulated housing beginning in 2028. It also provides information, incentives, and control mechanisms empowering tenants to demand landlords conduct energy renovation work. Beginning in 2022, the law requires an energy audit, including proposals, when selling poorly insulated housing. All households will have access to a financing mechanism to pay the remaining costs of their renovation work via government-guaranteed loans. The law regulates the laying of concrete, mandates a 50 percent reduction in the rate of land use by 2030, requires net zero land reclamation by 2050, and prohibits the construction of new shopping centers that lead to modifying natural environment. The law aims to protect 30 percent of France’s sensitive natural areas and supports local authorities in adapting their coastal territories against receding coastlines. The law’s final chapter focuses on environmental violations and reinforces sanctions for environmental damage, such as long-term degradation to fauna and flora (up to three years in prison and a €250,000 ($273,000) fine), as well as for the general offense of environmental pollution and “ecocide” (up to 10 years in prison and a €4.5 million ($4.9 million) fine or up to 10 times the profit obtained by the individual committing the environmental damage). The chapter uses the term “ecocide” to refer to the most serious cases of environmental damage, although the term is not defined in the law. Even if pollution has not occurred, these penalties apply as long as the individual’s behavior is considered to have put the environment in “danger.”
In line with President Macron’s campaign promise to clean up French politics, the French parliament adopted in September 2017 the law on “Restoring Confidence in Public Life.” The new law bans elected officials from employing family members, or working as a lobbyist or consultant while in office. It also bans lobbyists from paying parliamentary, ministerial, or presidential staff and requires parliamentarians to submit receipts for expenses.
France’s “Transparency, Anti-corruption, and Economic Modernization Law,” also known as the “Loi Sapin II,” came into effect on June 1, 2017. It brought France’s legislation in line with European and international standards. Key aspects of the law include: creating a new anti-corruption agency; establishing “deferred prosecution” for defendants in corruption cases and prosecuting companies (French or foreign) suspected of bribing foreign public officials abroad; requiring lobbyists to register with national institutions; and expanding legal protections for whistleblowers. The Sapin II law also established a High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). The HATVP promotes transparency in public life by publishing the declarations of assets and interests it is legally authorized to share publicly. After review, declarations of assets and statements of interests of members of the government are published on the High Authority’s website under open license. The declarations of interests of members of Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet.
France is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition in France in recent years. France ranked 22rd of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) 2021 corruption perceptions index. See .
10. Political and Security Environment
France is a politically stable country. Large demonstrations and protests occur regularly (sometimes organized to occur simultaneously in multiple French cities); these can result in violence. When faced with imminent business closures, on rare occasions French trade unions have resorted to confrontational techniques such as setting plants on fire, planting bombs, or kidnapping executives or managers.
From mid-November 2018 through 2019, Paris and other cities in France faced regular protests and disruptions, including “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) demonstrations that turned violent, initiated by discontent over high cost of living, gas, taxes, and social exclusion. In the second half of 2019, most demonstrations were in response to President Macron’s proposed unemployment and pension reform. Authorities permitted peaceful protests. During some demonstrations, damage to property, including looting and arson, in popular tourist areas occurred with reckless disregard for public safety. Police response included water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Between 2012 and 2021, 271 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in France, including the January 2015 assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 coordinated attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, national stadium, and streets of Paris, and the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. While the terrorist threat remains high, the threat is lower than its peak in 2015. Terrorist attacks have since been smaller in scale. Security services remained concerned with lone-wolf attacks, carried out by individuals already in France, inspired by or affiliated with ISIS. French security agencies continue to disrupt plots and cells effectively. Despite the spate of recent small-scale attacks, France remains a strong, stable, democratic country with a vibrant economy and culture. Americans and investors from all over the world continue to invest heavily in France.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
France’s has one of the lowest unionized work forces in the developed world (between 8-11 percent of the total work force). However, unions have strong statutory protections under French law that give them the power to engage in sector- and industry-wide negotiations on behalf of all workers. As a result, an estimated 98 percent of French workers are covered by union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Any organizational change in the workplace must usually be presented to the unions for a formal consultation as part of the collective bargaining process.
The number of apprenticeships in France peaked in 2021, at 718,000 (+37 percent compared with 2020), including 698,000 in the private sector, according to February 2, 2022 Labor Ministry figures. Apprenticeships, like vocational training, have been placed under the direct management of the government via a newly created agency called France Compétences. The government claims growth of apprenticeship and reform of vocational training help to explain the drop to from eight percent in 2020 to 7.4 percent in 2021.
During the COVID-19 crisis, France’s partial unemployment scheme, which allows firms to retain their employees while the government continues to pay a portion of their wages, expanded dramatically in scope and size and kept unemployment at pre-crisis levels (between eight and nine percent). The reform of unemployment insurance was launched in stages in November 2017 and twice postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Labor Minister Elizabeth Borne presented on March 2, 2021, the last measures of the government’s final decree on unemployment insurance. These final measures include a new method for calculating the daily reference wage and the introduction of a tax on short-term contracts. In spite of strong labor union opposition, the government was able to enforce its reform in November 2021. Earlier measures of the reform, in place since January 1, 2021, cover a 30 percent cut in benefits of higher wage earners and an increase from one to four months of the threshold for recharging rights to unemployment benefits once they have ended. This reform is designed to tackle two issues: 1) ensuring that the jobless do not make more money from unemployment benefits than by working; and 2) reducing the deficit of France’s unemployment insurance system UNEDIC. The deficit is expected to turn to surplus by the end of 2022, according to an October 22, 2021 report by UNEDIC, due to the end of the government COVID-19 partial unemployment scheme and as a consequence of the unemployment insurance reform. Pension reform has been delayed until after the April 2022 presidential elections.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
* French Source : INSEE database for GDP figures and French Central Bank (Banque de France) for FDI figures. Accessed on March 21, 2022.
|Direct Investment from/in France Economy Data 2020|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (U/S. Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||897,115||100%||Total Outward||1,440,715||100%|
|The Netherlands||107,709||12%||United Kingdom||137,138||9%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Source: Bank of France.
Note: These figures represent the stock of foreign direct investment (FDI), not the annual flow of FDI. The United States was the second top investor by number of projects recorded in 2021 but remained in first place for jobs generated (10,118).
14. Contact for More Information
Dustin Salveson (from July 2022, Craig Pike)
2 Avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris, France