French industry to push for ‘investment shock’ in Athens

The President of Medef, Pierre Gattaz, with his Greek counterpart, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises chief Theodoros Fessas. [MEDEF]

Representatives from French and Greek industry associations met in Paris on Monday (28 September), in order to boost investment in Greece’s declining economy.

The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) was invited to France by the Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF), the largest employer federation in France.

Greece is in recession for a fifth successive year, with varying projections for 2015.

Standard & Poor’s recently said that Greece would record a 3% recession for 2015, while Greece’s Minister of Economy, Giorgos Stathakis, is more optimistic.

“Greece’s recession will be lower than 2% [in 2015]. Maybe it will reach 1.5%. I think we will have a positive sign the first half of 2016,” he stressed.

The bilateral trade between the two countries is just 3 billion euros. More than 120 French companies have activities in Greece, employing almost 12,000 personnel. Greece represents 0.5% of French exports, and 0.1% of imports. 

“Today Greece is a very small trading partner for France, and this must be developed. There are opportunities for French companies in Greece,” said MEDEF President Pierre Gattaz.

While Greece is a relatively minor economic partner for Paris, the relationship brought France a trade surplus of €1.5 billion in 2014, the biggest of any eurozone partner. Given France’s €38 billion trade deficit with the rest of the eurozone, this is one more reason to nurture relations with Athens.

A chance for French investment

During a meeting in Paris with French Minister of Finance Michel Sapin, and Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron, Theodoros Fessas, the head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), noted that after the latest elections, Greece was ready to return to “a period of normality” where participation in the Eurozone is “irrevocable”.

“Greece needs a positive investment shock to recover from the long recession,” Fessas said. 

Fessas stressed that the bailout agreed on between Athens and its international creditors should be “immediately and effectively implemented”.

At the same time, he added, policies which would reduce Greece’s recession should be pushed forward, as well as measures aimed at boosting the debt-ridden country’s growth prospects.

“The return to normality provides the French business community with remarkable investments opportunities,” he emphasised.

Fessas continued, saying that the decrease in high tax rates should be a priority for the Greek government, and has severely hurt the country’s competitiveness.

A two-level agreement

Both sides agreed to enhance their bilateral cooperation on trade, and make new business partnerships in the EU, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

They also decided to submit a specific action plan by November, while a visit to Athens by MEDEF will be scheduled in December.

The second pillar of the agreement promotes cooperation on EU policies.

“Both sides will work together for the promotion of EU policies that will boost industry’s growth, and will create sustainable jobs in a competitive Europe,” an SEV press release states. 

In addition, SEV and MEDEF will set up a joint working group, which will focus on industry-related issues, and submit its recommendations to the EU in December.

MEDEF’s president said that both both countries were aware of the fact that no one could expect a sustainable recovery without applying robust and effective reforms at the national level.

“Strong Greece means strong Europe and thus, strong France,” he noted.

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