France plans to expand a law protecting its ‘strategic’ industries from foreign takeovers by adding technologies such as artificial intelligence to the list, economy minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday.
‘Make no mistake, France is an open country and we want to make France attractive’ to foreign investors, Le Maire said at a press conference.
However, ‘openness does not mean pillaging of our technologies, our know how, our talents.’
In 2014 France passed the so-called Montebourg law setting strict oversight of foreign bids for companies in key industries such as energy and transportation.
Le Maire said France would now set out a ‘new investment doctrine’ to ensure more clarity over investments by foreign groups.
It will also now consider digital sectors including data stockage and artificial intelligence as strategic sectors subject to strict oversight if there are foreign shareholders.
France will also ask the European Commission, along with Germany, Italy and Spain, to set out rules on foreign investments in Europe, citing a need to ‘defend national interests’.
The move dovetails with a decision by Germany’s cabinet last year to tighten scrutiny over takeovers of companies in strategic industries by buyers outside the EU, reacting to Europe-wide disquiet over Chinese takeovers.
Le Maire, who accompanied President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to China earlier this month, called for ‘reciprocity’ with France’s trading partners and the respect of ‘clear rules’.
He called for ‘long-term investments that respect our rules and are associated with an opening of foreign markets.’
Given the international stakes, Le Maire said the eurozone needed to step up its integration efforts to become ‘a powerful economic continent, able to get the upper hand against China and the United States.’
He reiterated that France is hoping to push its proposals for a eurozone banking and capital markets union, and fiscal convergence, for 2019 at the latest.