President Emmanuel Macron met with Elon Musk, the CEO of Pfizer, and other corporate leaders to push them to invest in France, and his administration said the country was on track to receive record foreign investment pledges.
For Macron, whose popularity has suffered as a result of a hugely unpopular decision to raise the French retirement age, the “Choose France” summit is an opportunity to reclaim the initiative with his pro-business reform campaign and turn focus to his promotion of lower-carbon industries such as electric vehicles.
Some 200 business leaders attending the event in Versailles close to Paris have so far made commitments to invest a combined 13 billion euros ($14 billion), the most since Macron first held the summit in 2018, his office said.
Musk, who also lunched with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, said he was confident Tesla would make “significant investments” in France in the future, without giving a timetable.
“No announcement today but I am very impressed with President Macron and the French government and how welcoming they are,” he told reporters.
The Elysee said the talks covered topics such as the European response to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act 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.
Le Maire also pitched to Musk new tax credits for investments in green technology made public last week.
Asked whether France was trying to convince Musk to build a gigafactory in France, Le Maire said he’d rather keep the content of their negotiations secret in a context of cut-throat competition between rival blocs.
“It’s a battle where no one is doing anybody any favour,” he said.
France previously tried to convince Musk to build a European gigafactory in the country, but he chose Germany for his only such plant in Europe so far.
Macron, a former investment banker, is competing on the global stage for investment in green technology at a time when the United States has become a magnet following its $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes major tax subsidies to cut carbon emissions, boost domestic production and manufacturing.
Tesla’s plant near Berlin began delivering cars in March 2022 and produces around 5,000 Model Y vehicles a week, with a maximum capacity of 500,000 cars per year.
But although it has begun assembling batteries in Germany, Tesla has said it will focus cell production in the U.S. in light of IRA incentives.
To counter that, Macron said last week France’s existing cash incentive of up to 5,000 euros for buyers of new electric cars would be made conditional on their producers 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. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to Swedish furniture maker IKEA and investment bank Morgan Stanley. In total, the projects are expected to create 8,000 jobs.
The single biggest investment is a 5.2 billion euro project from 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 components plant also in Dunkirk in a joint venture between Chinese group XTC and French firm Orano.
IKEA has plans to invest 906 million euros by 2026 while Pfizer has budgeted 500 million euros to expand in France over the same period followed by British rival GSK with 400 million euros, Macron’s office said.
Morgan Stanley plans to increase headcount in France by 200 by 2025, bringing total staff in the country to 500.