Macron frees Tesla’s Musk and others to ‘Choose France’

PARIS, May 14 (Reuters) – France is poised to win record foreign investment pledges when President Emmanuel Macron hosts global business leaders, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, on Monday at the annual “Choose France” summit in Versailles.

For the president, whose popularity has suffered under a widely unpopular proposal to raise the French retirement age, the summit is a chance to justify his pro-business reform drive and shift attention to his promotion of lower-carbon industries such as electric vehicles.

Leaders attending the event in Versailles near Paris have so far committed to invest a total of 13 billion euros ($14 billion), the most since Macron first held the summit in 2018.

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla ( TSLA.O ), met Macron at his official residence, the Elysee Palace.

Sitting across from Macron in one of the Elysee Palace’s gilded rooms, Musk joked he had to “sleep in the car” in remarks caught on camera before their meeting.

In a statement afterwards, the Elysee said the meeting covered several topics of common interest, notably the European response to the US anti-inflation law and the progress France has made in attracting investment and improving the outlook for electric vehicles and energy.

“We have so much to do together,” Macron said in a tweet.

In Versailles, Musk will participate in a round table conference on “Green industrialisation” at 15:00 (1300 GMT) and a dinner with the other CEOs.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will give Musk new tax credits for investments in green technology that Macron announced last week, the finance ministry told Reuters.

France previously tried to convince Musk to build a European gigafactory in the country, but he chose Germany as his only European gigafactory so far.

Asked by BFM TV about possible investments from Musk, Le Maire said that only “all investments made today are the result of months or even years of negotiations”.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

PALATIAL backdrop

For the past five years, Macron has invited top executives to the opulent Palace of Versailles to try to secure billions in foreign investment.

For the former investment banker, who cannot run in 2027 after two terms but is eyeing his legacy, the summit offers a chance to move on from months of protests and strikes against his plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 .

He is also competing on the global stage for investments in green technology when the US has become a magnet after the introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Tesla’s plant near Berlin began delivering cars in March 2022 and produces about 5,000 Model Y vehicles a week, with a maximum capacity of 500,000 cars per year.

But while it has begun assembling batteries in Germany, Tesla has said it will focus cell production in the US in light of IRA incentives, making it one of the first companies to declare a shift in strategy prompted by the package.

To counter that, Macron said last week that France’s existing cash incentive of up to 5,000 euros for buyers of new electric cars would be made conditional on their manufacturers meeting tough low-carbon standards, effectively excluding cars made outside Europe.

France so far expects a total of 28 investment projects from companies ranging from U.S. pharmaceuticals group Pfizer ( PFE.N ) to Swedish furniture maker IKEA and investment bank Morgan Stanley ( MS.N ). In total, the projects are expected to create 8,000 jobs.

The biggest single investment is a 5.2 billion euro project by a Taiwanese car battery maker in the northern port city of Dunkirk, which Macron announced on Friday.

It is followed by a 1.5 billion euro battery component factory also in Dunkirk in a joint venture between the Chinese group XTC and the French firm Orano.

IKEA plans to invest 906 million euros by 2026, while Pfizer has budgeted 500 million euros to expand in France in the same period followed by British rival GSK ( GSK.L ) with 400 million euros, Macron’s office said.

Morgan Stanley is expected to announce the creation of 200 new banking jobs in Paris.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

Reporting by Leigh Thomas Editing by Christina Fincher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tassilo Hummel

Thomson Reuters

Tassilo is a trained lawyer who first joined Reuters in Berlin, then returned to Paris. He covers French politics and business, EU institutions and NATO.

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