Touting ‘transformation’, French PM seeks investment in Dubai

DUBAI (AFP) – France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised lower taxes and a business-friendly France at a global summit in Dubai on Sunday, seeking investment from the oil-rich Gulf region.

“France is undergoing great transformation,” Philippe said, addressing a thousand-strong audience at Dubai’s World Government Summit.

Philippe pledged a “favourable framework for business and investment” and a drop in corporate taxes in France.

The annual summit, often dubbed the Davos of the Middle East, brings together a cosmopolitan line-up of business and political figures – with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as this year’s guest of honour.

The French premier sought to contrast the policies of President Emmanuel Macron with the isolationist trends of other Western nations, including Britain leaving the European Union and US President Donald Trump’s election.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. – AFP

On Saturday, the French premier met the heads of the two largest sovereign funds in the United Arab Emirates, as well as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

“What I felt was their continued interest in what we were doing and prospects available in France,” he said.

With sovereign funds worth more than $800 billion, but only a fraction of that – around $3 billion – invested in France, Paris is working to capture a larger share of UAE petrodollars.

Philippe on Sunday oversaw the signing in Dubai of a $16 billion purchase by Emirates Airlines of the Airbus A380 superjumbo commercial airliner – a lifeline for the company.

“We must make our country more attractive to foreign investors, and there is work to be done,” he told members of the French community in the United Arab Emirates late Saturday, speaking on board a French warship docked in Dubai.

The UAE hosts three French military bases.

It has also become a major contributor to the French-backed coalition fighting terrorists in Africa’s Sahel region, pledging $30 million in December.