France's economy is on the move

I wish to clarify some of the points raised in the commentary on May 16 ("A pauper France is a threat to Europe").

Like many, France was indeed hard hit by the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, but it is not stuck in stagnation.

Economic growth reached 1.3 per cent last year and grew beyond expectations in the first quarter of this year (more than 2 per cent on a yearly basis). France was also among the earliest advanced economies to recover to its pre-crisis gross domestic product (GDP) level in 2011.

Consumer confidence is clawing back to pre-crisis levels and profit margins of companies grew by 2 per cent last year alone.

Start-ups are flourishing. From next January, Paris will host the largest incubator in the world (1,000 companies) - the Halle Freyssinet - demonstrating how strong the innovation ecosystem is.

In the longer run, France's relatively healthy demographic situation gives our country stronger growth prospects than most others.

Yes, France needs to reduce its public debt, but no, public spending is not out of control. Last year, for the second year in a row, the public deficit was below initial projections. The deficit was 3.6 per cent of GDP last year, and will reach 3.3 per cent this year.

A three-year €50 billion (S$77 billion) spending cut and strict control on public spending make it possible for France to deliver the 3 per cent deficit ceiling next year, as agreed upon with our European partners (not 4 per cent, as stated in the commentary).

Yes, as stated by President Francois Hollande on numerous occasions, France needs to reform its economy, but no, France does not shy away from this task.

In the past three years, France passed laws on pensions, labour flexibility and even the iconic opening of shops on Sundays. More can certainly be done, and the French government is committed to reforms.

Yes, France may not have the same vision of globalisation as some others, but no, France does not embrace it reluctantly.

France is the top destination for tourists in the world, the fifth-largest exporter of goods, the fourth-largest exporter of services, the fifth-largest world investor and the seventh-largest recipient of foreign direct investment.

Our country is among the top three recipients of foreign investment projects in Europe and No. 1 when it comes to industry and logistics.

France's market is one of the most open in the world, including on public procurement and foreign investment, with substantially fewer restrictions than in other countries hailed as champions of free trade.

Our country is a very active player in international negotiations, as shown by its leading role in the construction of the European Union, and, more recently, as president of the COP21 Conference on climate change.

France is the fourth-largest contributor to the Green Climate Fund and is the seventh-largest shareholder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Yes, the European construction needs to be preserved and enhanced, but no, France is not a threat to it. The markets don't believe it. France has a strong financial rating, AA, the same as the United States and China.

There is no complacency on our part, and France knows that more reforms are necessary.

France's situation is much more promising than what is too often said and written, perhaps out of a habit formed during the global financial crisis.

But that was some time ago. France's economy is on the move and, more than ever, open for business.

Benjamin Dubertret

Ambassador of France to Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'France's economy is on the move'. Print Edition | Subscribe