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'Choose France': French ambassador appeals to Korean investors

French Ambassador to Korea Philippe Lefort (Yonhap)
French Ambassador to Korea Philippe Lefort (Yonhap)
The French ambassador to Korea on Tuesday appealed to South Korean investors to invest in France, as the country seeks to repair a coronavirus-ravaged economy and pave the way to make it more green, competitive and resilient by 2030.

Introducing its 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) economic stimulus package announced in early September, Ambassador Philippe Lefort stressed that it would be a win-win opportunity for both sides to enhance cooperation, particularly in the fields of energy, green mobility and health.

"I would like to stress that France’s ‘Relance’ policy and Korea’s ‘Green New Deal’ policy share a common goal to some extent – that both seek to promote cleaner, inclusive economy while developing it in a more competitive and innovative way," the ambassador said at a press conference held Monday at his residence in Seoul, referring to the France Relaunch plan.

Unfazed by the coronavirus situation in France, which is one of the countries in Europe hardest hit by a resurgence, Lefort vouched for his government’s steady plan to create a favorable environment for businesses.

"For the past three years, the French government has pushed for an extensive reform process to inject energy into the production process," he said, citing its 2017 reform of labor laws and upcoming plans for tax cuts.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France is on course for one of Europe’s worst recessions, with an 11 percent drop in economic output forecast for the whole year of 2020.

Through the two-year recovery plan, the French government aims for a return to the pre-pandemic 2019 gross domestic product level by 2022. The next French presidential election will be in April that year.

Under the economic stimulus package, 40 billion euros of which is to come from the new European Union recovery fund, 30 billion euros would be spent on a "green transition" to pursue greener energy policies, and 35 billion euros would go to "industrial competitiveness and innovation," including 20 billion euros in reduced production taxes for businesses over the next two years. The final 35 billion euros will be spent on "social and regional cohesion," including job creation and training for the young.

Korea also unveiled one of the Moon Jae-in administration’s biggest economic initiatives -- the 73 trillion-won ($63.1 billion) “Green New Deal” plan -- in July, detailing the government’s commitment to expand energy efficiency, transition to renewable energy and foster eco-friendly infrastructure.

At the press conference, Na Kyung-soo, president and CEO of SK Global Chemical, shared the experience of his company acquiring a French firm and touted the country’s business-friendly environment.

In a bid to increase its eco-friendly product ratio to over 70 percent by 2025 in pursuit of sustainable growth, the company, an affiliate of Korea’s top oil refiner SK Innovation, completed the acquisition of the French chemical firm Arkema’s functional polyolefins business for 335 million euros in June.

"We acquired the French firm for its high technology," Na said, adding his company’s plan is to expand its position in the eco-friendly plastic market. "We unexpectedly learned that French firms take into account recycling of resources from the product design stage. I think that is the way to go for Korea so I am trying to learn from it."

By Ock Hyun-ju (